The number of women getting abortions in Minnesota has declined to the lowest level in 37 years, according to the Minnesota Department of Health.

Last year, 11,071 abortions were performed in Minnesota, fewer than any year since 1975, when the state started keeping track. And for the first time, the abortion rate dropped below 1 percent among Minnesota women of child-bearing age, to 0.97 percent.

The 2011 annual abortion report, released Monday by the Minnesota Department of Health, does not speculate on the reasons for the trend.

But the numbers have been on a steady decline since 2006, and are down almost 42 percent from their peak in 1980, when 19,028 abortions were reported and the abortion rate hit 1.72 percent among women ages 15 to 44.

The news was welcomed by both sides of the abortion debate, although they offered different possible explanations.

Scott Fischbach, executive director of Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life, issued a statement saying that the numbers "confirm that MCCL's efforts to educate and to provide alternatives for women are working."

Planned Parenthood suggested that better access to contraception played a role. "We work every day to reduce the number of unintended pregnancies and to keep women healthy -- it's 95 percent of the work we do here in Minnesota," Sarah Stoesz, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota, said in a statement released Monday.

Birth rates, too, have dropped to their lowest levels in 20 years, according to the Health Department.

The gradual decline in abortions mirrors national trends, although Minnesota's abortion rate is half the national average, which was estimated at nearly 20 percent in 2008 by the Guttmacher Institute.

The annual Minnesota report, which is mandated by state law, provides the following detail on abortions in 2011:

• 10,080 occurred in the first trimester.

• 989 in the second trimester.

• Two in the third trimester.

• 3,620 patients reported they were using contraception when they became pregnant.

• 2,175 involved the so-called "abortion pill" or nonsurgical method.

• 3,791 were paid for by public assistance.

The top two reasons given for seeking an abortion:

• "Don't want children at this time": 7,431.

• "Economic reasons": 3,796.

The report can be found at Maura Lerner • 612-673-7384