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New data shows the state of abortions in Utah

Posted at 3:50 PM, Jun 13, 2024

SALT LAKE CITY — The number of abortions in Utah increased 35% in 2023 compared to 2019, and 7% of all abortions performed in the state last year were for non-residents.

That’s according to data from the Guttmacher Institute, a research group that supports abortion rights, as first published by The New York Times.

The data provides new insight into the state of abortion in Utah, and come as the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Thursday that the abortion drug mifepristone can remain widely available in the United States. Some experts have attributed the national trend of increased abortions since the fall of Roe v. Wade in 2022 to expanded access to the drug.

“For many people, medication abortion is more accessible than a procedural abortion,” the Guttmacher Institute wrote in a March policy analysis, noting that 40% of facilities that offer abortion care only provide medication abortion.

The ability to mail medications to patients, “including those who live far from a provider or are otherwise unable to make an in-person visit,” has also contributed to the rise in use, and the analysis said access is “expected to continue growing.”

Overall, more than 171,000 patients traveled to another state for an abortion last year nationwide, according to the new data – with out-of-state travel more than doubling across the country in 2023 compared to 2019.

The numbers show out-of-state patients are coming to Utah from Idaho, which has a near-total abortion ban and prohibits access to pregnancy terminations even in emergencies.

A FOX 13 News investigation last month found that some doctors have been airlifting women from Idaho to Utah as a result of those restrictive laws.

“We do have a great relationship with the University of Utah,” Stacy Seyb, a maternal-fetal medicine doctor at St. Luke’s in Boise, said in an interview last month. “Salt Lake is probably one of the places we’ll tend to call first.”

While abortion remains legal up to 18 weeks in Utah, a near-total ban is currently on hold pending a ruling from the Utah Supreme Court.

St. Luke’s, Idaho’s largest health care provider, said recently that it had airlifted six patients to other states – including Utah, Washington and Oregon – for abortion care since January, when the U.S. Supreme Court lifted an injunction protecting emergency abortions in Idaho. That number doesn’t account for women who may have crossed state lines on their own.

But even as Idaho women have been traveling to Utah for abortions, the data shows some Utah women also traveled out of state in 2023, to both Nevada and Colorado.

The Supreme Court’s decision Thursday is one of two abortion cases justices will decide this year. The court is expected to weigh in soon on the second case, which stems from Idaho’s abortion law. The ruling will ultimately decide whether a federal law known as the Emergency Medical Treatment & Labor Act (EMTALA) allows doctors to provide abortions in emergency situations even in states where the procedure would otherwise be illegal.

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