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Utah Gets Failing Grade for Reproductive Health Care

In Utah, 62 percent of women live in a county without an abortion provider. (Pixabay)
In Utah, 62 percent of women live in a county without an abortion provider. (Pixabay)
February 21, 2018

SALT LAKE CITY – Utah is one of 18 states to get a failing grade in the Population Institute's new national report card on reproductive health and rights.

In 2017, the nation as a whole slipped from a D to a D-minus because of tightened state and federal policies that limit access to contraceptive and other health care services.

Jennie Wetter, the Population Institute’s director of public policy, says despite the falling grades, there is good news to report.

"Right now across the U.S., you have the lowest teen pregnancy rate we've ever seen,” she points out. “It's still higher than most other developed countries, but it is at a historic low, and the unintended pregnancy rate is at a 30-year low. This is where we have seen states make real progress."

The report card tracks multiple health indicators, including access to family planning and abortion services.

Wetter says Utah's policy requiring a 72-hour waiting period, and parental notice and consent for teens, both add hurdles for women who choose to abort a pregnancy.

Utah's so-called TRAP laws, which increase regulations on providers, also factored into the state's failing grade.

Proponents say regulations such as requiring providers to have admitting privileges at full service hospitals are necessary to protect patient safety.

Wetter says the regulations, which exist primarily in red states, are part of a national strategy to reduce the number of abortions by limiting the number of available facilities.

She adds that the tactic is working in Utah, where 62 percent of women now live in a county without an abortion provider.

"But when you really look at these laws, they really are just designed to close clinics,” she asserts. “Abortion is one of the safest medical procedures anyone can have. So you really are not protecting patient safety, you're just setting up a barrier of access."

Wetter says Utah's low scores in affordability of care are due to the state's decision not to expand Medicaid coverage under the Affordable Care Act.

Utah exceeded national targets for unintended and teen pregnancy rates, and also had high scores for requiring emergency rooms to provide emergency contraception services.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - UT