Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP)


Burdensome and Unnecessary Requirements Limit Access to Services

"TRAP" (Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers) laws single out the medical practices of doctors who provide abortions, and impose on them requirements that are different and more burdensome than those imposed on other medical practices. For example, such regulations may require that abortions be performed in far more sophisticated and expensive facilities than are necessary to ensure the provision of safe procedures. Compliance with these physical plant requirements may require extensive renovations or be physically impossible in existing facilities. TRAP laws may also allow unannounced state inspections, even when patients are present. These excessive and unnecessary government regulations – an ever-growing trend among state legislatures – increase the cost and scarcity of abortion services, harming women's health and inhibiting their reproductive choices.

TRAP laws generally fall into one of three categories: health facility licensing schemes, ambulatory surgical center requirements, and hospitalization requirements. A number of states impose more than one of these types of TRAP laws on abortion providers.

  • Health facility licensing schemes vary widely in their breadth and scope, but generally require that abortion facilities (but no other comparable offices or clinics) become licensed by the state and meet a range of regulations governing such matters as physical construction, staffing, and procedures.
  • Ambulatory surgical center ("ASC") requirements mandate that abortion providers – including, in at least one state, those that provide only first-trimester medical or surgical abortions – be licensed as ASCs, which are sophisticated facilities designed for the performance of a range of out-patient surgeries. These requirements go far beyond the recommendations of the national health organizations in the field of abortion care, and converting a physician’s office or outpatient clinic into an ASC can be too expensive for many providers.
  • Hospitalization requirements mandate that abortions beyond a certain gestational age (generally at some point in the second trimester) be performed in a hospital. Although many states have some type of hospitalization requirement on the books, the vast majority of those laws are unenforceable because they have been declared unconstitutional by a court ruling or state official, or have been superseded by another law. For more information on TRAP laws, read the Center's fact sheet or our briefing paper.

TRAP laws have proven extremely difficult to challenge in court. Nonetheless, in a number of cases, the Center has sought creative and compelling ways to fight these laws, and we continue to use litigation as a means of trying to block this growing threat to reproductive rights.