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Attempts to impose burdensome and medically inappropriate requirements on abortion providers, making it more difficult for women to exercise their constitutional right to choose abortion, are frequently referred to as targeted regulations of abortion providers, or TRAP laws. These types of laws make the delivery of health care services prohibitively expensive and place unnecessary restrictions on the qualifications of providers who perform abortions, in an attempt to prevent them from being able to provide abortion care.
TRAP bills can take the form of requiring facilities where abortions are provided to meet medically inappropriate construction requirements that can be prohibitively costly and have no impact on patient health or safety. Others require abortion providers to have admitting privileges at a local hospital, despite the lack of a medical reason to require such privileges and the fact that other physicians who provide office-based surgery are not required to have them. There are many reasons why physicians, including some abortion providers, do not have such privileges. One is that abortion is one of the safest medical procedures available in the United States. And hospitals are often reluctant or unwilling to grant privileges to physicians who do not regularly admit patients to their hospital.
In 2013, TRAP bills passed in seven states—Alabama, Louisiana, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Texas, and Wisconsin—and served as a catalyst for an energized and engaged movement of people who are outraged by the relentless state legislative attacks on abortion care.
Reproductive health care services are among the safest and mostly commonly sought forms of care in the United States. Health centers that specialize in reproductive care are already among the most rigorously regulated and scrutinized health care providers. TRAP laws differ from warranted safety guidelines and regulations because they are explicitly devised as political tools to deter abortion providers from practicing abortion care, to make abortions more costly for women, and to force abortion clinics to close their doors.
There are four states with only one abortion provider. For those states, in particular, where access is most limited, TRAP regulations can serve as a backdoor ban on abortion.
These restrictions don’t do anything to improve patient care or safety—in fact they drive up health care costs for patients and drive providers of quality health care out of practice. Contrary to the claims of proponents of these measures, TRAP laws harm women’s health and undermine their safety. Politically motivated regulations that make it more difficult for clinics to provide high-quality care only make it harder for people to access essential reproductive health services, including lifesaving cancer screenings, contraception, STD prevention and treatment, and continued access to safe and compassionate abortion care.
As we clearly saw in Texas in 2013, TRAP laws result in clinics closing – and we know what happens when women can’t access the safe abortion care they need. A woman without a nearby clinic may be forced to travel hundreds of miles to get an abortion, driving up her costs not just financially but also emotionally. Transportation, accommodations, child care, time off work, and the chance that she may be forced into having a later abortion can all add up to placing safe abortion care beyond a woman’s reach. And when clinics close, not only abortion care but other reproductive health care is lost.
Additionally, when clinics close, some women may take matters into their own hands. Study after study by national and international experts have shown that restrictions on abortion don’t reduce its frequency, but rather increase women’s reliance on illegal and unsafe abortions.
Opponents of reproductive rights know they can’t ban abortion outright, so instead they put as many barriers as they can between women and their ability to exercise their rights—under the guise of protecting women’s health. In reality, TRAP laws clearly threaten the health of women seeking abortions and deprive women of their constitutionally protected right to decide whether and when to have children.
In 2012, the Center launched the Draw the Line campaign with the express purpose of putting the rampant attacks on women’s reproductive health care—like those described above—on the entire nation’s radar. Nearly 300,000 people have signed the Bill of Reproductive Rights at www.DrawtheLine.org, sending politicians a loud and clear message that reproductive rights are fundamental human rights, and must be protected from extremist politicians. Visit DrawtheLine.org to add your voice.
You can also urge your members of Congress to support the Women’s Health Protection Act, which would create stronger federal protections for the essential health care, personal decision making, and individual constitutional rights of every woman in the United States, no matter where she lives. Take action now to support this historic bill.