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Abortions have declined in states where new laws make it harder to have them but they've also waned in states where abortion rights are protected, an Associated Press survey finds. Nearly everywhere, in red states and blue, abortions are down since 2010.
Explanations vary. Abortion-rights advocates attribute it to expanded access to effective contraceptives and a drop in unintended pregnancies. Some abortion foes say there has been a shift in societal attitudes as more women choose to carry their pregnancies to term.
Several of the states that have been most aggressive in passing anti-abortion laws including Indiana, Missouri, Ohio, and Oklahoma have seen their abortion numbers drop by more than 15 percent since 2010. But more liberal states such as New York, Washington and Oregon also had declines of that magnitude, even as they maintained unrestricted access to abortion.
Nationwide, the AP survey showed a decrease in abortions of about 12 percent since 2010.
One major factor has been a decline in the teen pregnancy rate, which in 2010 reached its lowest level in decades. There's been no official update since then, but the teen birth rate has continued to drop, which experts say signals a similar trend for teen pregnancies.
The AP obtained the most recent abortion numbers from the health departments of all 45 states that compile such data on a comprehensive basis. (States not compiling such data are California, Maryland, New Jersey, New Hampshire and Wyoming.) With one exception, the data was from either 2013 or 2014 providing a unique nationwide gauge of abortion trends during a wave of anti-abortion laws that gathered strength starting in 2011.
Among the groups most active in promoting the restrictive laws is Americans United for Life. Its president, Charmaine Yoest, suggested that the broad decrease in abortions reflected a change in attitudes among pregnant women.
"There's an entire generation of women who saw a sonogram as their first baby picture," she said. "There's an increased awareness of the humanity of the baby before it is born."
But advocates for abortion rights said the figures demonstrate that restrictive laws are not needed to reduce the number of abortions significantly. They said that can be achieved by helping more women obtain affordable, effective contraception, including long-lasting options such as IUDs and hormonal implants.
"Better access to birth control and sex education are the biggest factors in reducing unintended pregnancies," said Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. "More restrictive abortion laws do not reduce the need for abortions."
Elizabeth Nash, a state-issues expert for the Guttmacher Institute, a research group that supports abortion rights, said a total of 267 abortion restrictions have been enacted in 31 states since 2011. Among them are measures that ban most abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, impose hospital-like physical standards on abortion clinics, and require doctors who perform abortions at clinics to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals.
While some of the new laws have been blocked by lawsuits, most have taken effect, contributing to closure of about 70 abortion clinics in a dozen states since 2010. States with the most closures, according to state officials and advocacy groups, include Texas with 27, Michigan and Arizona with about 12, and Ohio with at least four. Two clinics closed in Virginia, including one that was the state's busiest.
The only states with significant increases in abortions since 2010 are Republican-led Louisiana and Michigan, which have passed laws intended to restrict abortion. Louisiana where abortions increased 12 percent between 2010 and 2014 was recently honored by Americans United for Life as the No. 1 state in taking steps to reduce access to abortion.
In both Louisiana and in Michigan, where abortions rose by 18.5 percent, the increases were due in part to women coming from other states where new restrictions and clinic closures have sharply limited abortion access.
Utah abortion rate drops 16% since 2010
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.
MICHELLE L. PRICE | The Associated Press