- Associated Press - Sunday, June 7, 2015

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - The annual number of abortions has decreased by 16 percent in Utah since 2010, mirroring a national trend, an Associated Press survey has found.

Numbers from the Utah Department of Health show there were 2,893 abortions in Utah in 2013, the most recent number available.

Utah experts don’t know exactly why the rate is dropping within the state. Birth rates have also been dropping in recent years, and the decline in abortions may be linked to fewer pregnancies overall, said Laurie Baksh, a manager of the Utah Department of Health’s maternal and infant health program.

In 2008, Utah’s birth rate was 20.9 per 1,000 people. In 2013, it fell to 17.6 births per 1,000 people.

Officials don’t know for sure why there have been fewer pregnancies, but it may be linked to the Great Recession and increased use of and access to more effective birth control, such as intrauterine devices, Baksh said.

Under President Barack Obama’s health care law, most insurance plans must offer birth control free of cost to women. It’s possible that more women have taken advantage of that benefit since then, especially more effective measures such as intrauterine devices, which can cost up to $1,000 each.

Karrie Galloway, CEO of the Planned Parenthood Association of Utah, said some people believe that better family planning and birth control or more restrictive state laws concerning abortion could play a role in the decline, but there’s no solid data to back up those theories.

Five of the six states with the biggest declines in abortions since 2010 - Hawaii, New Mexico, Nevada, Rhode Island and Connecticut -have not passed any recent laws restricting access to clinics or providers.

But Carol Tobias, president of National Right to Life, told The Salt Lake Tribune in December that she believed Utah’s declining rate of abortions was caused by its restrictive laws, including a 2012 law requiring a woman to wait 72 hours before having an abortion instead of 24 hours.

National Right to Life did not return messages from the AP seeking comment on the Utah abortion data.

Americans United for Life, a group that has been active in promoting the restrictive laws, has suggested the drop in abortions stems from a change in cultural thinking that has led more women to carry their pregnancies to term.

Utah also has fewer facilities licensed to perform abortions. The legislature passed a 2012 law requiring special licenses for all facilities performing abortions.

Five facilities were licensed when the law passed. There are now only two licensed facilities in Utah, both in Salt Lake City.

Galloway said the number of clinics number has dropped because doctors have retired and younger physicians have not replaced them.

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