Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP)


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"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, some TRAP laws reqire that abortions be performed in far more complicated and expensive facilities than are necessary to ensure the provision of safe procedures, such as in ambulatory surgical facilities. Compliance with these requirements may require costly and unnecessary facility modifications, which may not even be feasible in existing facilities, or impose unnecessary staffing requirements that are expensive or impossible to meet. Another example is TRAP laws requiring that physicians who perform abortions have admitting privileges in a local hospital, a requirement that is not medically justified and severely reduces women's access to abortion services.

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. These laws jeopardize women's access to safe, legal, high-quality reproductive health care and represent a backdoor attempt by politicians to end legal abortion access. They are typically enacted based on the false pretext of protecting women's health and safety, but have a clear ulterior motive of making it more difficult to provide abortion services and thus more difficult for women to obtain such services. For example, at the time Governor Phil Bryant signed Mississippi's admitting privileges bill into law in 2012, he declared "Today you see the first step in a movement to ... try and end abortion in Mississippi."

Leading medical associations have gone on record opposing TRAP requirements. For example, the American Medical Association (AMA) and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) oppose a Texas law requiring abortion facilities to meet ambulatory surgical facilities requirements and physicians providing abortion services to have admitting privileges at a local hospital. In a court brief, those two leading medical associations argued that the Texas law "does not serve the health of women in Texas but instead jeopardizes women's health by restricting access to abortion providers."

The Supreme Court will soon have an opportunity again to make clear that our Constitution rightly protects women from laws such as these, which create barriers to safe and legal abortion care. State officials from Mississippi have asked the Court to review a decision upholding an injunction that is currently blocking Mississippi's admitting privileges requirement - if allowed to take effect, that requirement would shut down the last abortion clinic in the state. And the Center for Reproductive Rights will soon be filing a request for the Supreme Court to review the lower appellate court decision upholding in large part Texas' TRAP requirements. The Supreme Court has twice affirmed that a woman has a constitutionally protected right to decide whether to continue or end her pregnancy, first in 1973 and again in 1992, and we anticipate that the Court will strike down these laws as violations of this constitutional protection.

For more information on TRAP laws around the country, please see the Guttmacher Institute's "State Policies in Brief: Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers"