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Utah's abortion rate continues to fall, hitting lowest recorded level in 2014

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SALT LAKE CITY — A new report shows Utah's abortion rate fell to the lowest level ever recorded in 2014, continuing a trend seen in Utah and around the country for several years.

For every 1,000 women ages 15 to 44, there are 4.3 abortions performed last year, according to the latest annual abortion report from the Utah Department of Health. That's down from a 2013 rate of 4.6 abortions per 1,000 women. Since Utah started tracking the rates in 1975, the highest recorded rate was 11.1 per 1,000 women in 1980.

The report, which was released last week, also shows that while there were more births recorded in 2014 than any year since 1980, there were fewer abortions performed.

Laurie Baksh, a manager of the Utah Department of Health's maternal and infant health program, said Monday that officials don't know exactly what has caused the rate to fall. One theory is that more women may be accessing and using long-term, more effective birth control methods such as intrauterine devices, she said.

A report released earlier this year by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that IUDs, T-shaped devices containing hormones or copper that are inserted into the womb, and other forms of long-acting contraceptives, have become increasingly popular with U.S. women in recent years.

Under the federal health care law, most insurance plans are required to cover birth control methods without charging patients a copayment or coinsurance.

That can make it easier for women to afford an IUD, which can cost up to $1,000 each.

Baksh said Utah health officials are still working to collect data on contraceptive use and insurance coverage in the state.

An Associated Press survey in June found that in recent years, abortions have declined in nearly all states, even where lawmakers have passed few restrictions.

Laura Bunker, the Utah-based president of the conservative group United Families International, points to laws restricting abortions that have been passed in recent years, particularly a 2012 law requiring a woman to wait 72 hours before having an abortion instead of 24 hours.

"The laws in Utah have been trying to help women think through having an abortion — giving them time to think and not feel pressured," Bunker said. "We believe these are good laws and that they have had an impact."

Karrie Galloway, CEO of the Planned Parenthood Association of Utah, did not immediately return messages Monday seeking comment on the report.

Galloway told The Associated Press in June that some people believe better family planning and birth control or more restrictive abortions laws could play a role in the decline in recent years, but there's no solid data to back up those theories.

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