Restrictions on abortion threaten to close women’s health centers across the country — especially in the South. But a federal court just ruled to protect Alabama women from the latest attack: In Alabama, a federal court struck down a law that would have shuttered all but two of the state’s only health centers that provide abortions.
The law would have set up a catch-22 by forcing doctors who provide abortions to obtain admitting privileges at local hospitals, a requirement that physicians cannot meet for a variety of reasons that have nothing to do with quality of medical care.
The judge in the case ruled that the law is unconstitutional because it would leave so few clinics in the state that it would force women seeking an abortion to drive long distances, placing an undue burden on them.
A Win for Women in Alabama
Besides being woefully unfair and medically unnecessary, the Alabama requirement singled out abortion providers. Doctors who do procedures riskier than abortions don’t need admitting privileges.
A woman’s ability to make a medical decision shouldn’t depend on where she lives, or whether she has the luxury of traveling out of state for health care. But Alabama’s law intended to do just that: take away a woman’s ability to choose an abortion. State Representative Mac McCutcheon even said that the Alabama Legislature would pass bills “to shut down these [abortion] clinics."
What TRAP Laws Do:
Severely Limit Access to Safe, Legal Abortion
The type of law at issue in Alabama is part of what is known as Targeted Restrictions of Abortion Providers — or “TRAP” for short. These regulations have nothing to do with improving the health or safety of women, and everything to do with politics.
These restrictions often include the following:
- Requiring medically unnecessary staff qualifications and building/structural requirements
- Designating abortion clinics as hospitals or ambulatory surgical/outpatient centers, even though such facilities are designed for far riskier procedures and make no medical sense in the context of abortion
- Requiring doctors who provide abortions to have admitting privileges to hospitals — the main restriction at issue in the present Alabama case, which basically gives hospitals a veto power over whether an abortion provider can exist
The medical community opposes these laws because reproductive health care services are among the safest and mostly commonly sought forms of care in the United States. Moreover, TRAP laws actually put women at risk because they force quality health care providers to close.
Where Trap Laws Are:
South & Midwest States
Different types of TRAP laws — particularly the type that requires admitting privileges — threaten access to safe, legal abortion across the United States.
- TRAP laws slashed the number of abortion providers and closed women’s health centers in Texas, devastating Texans’ access to the host of health services those facilities provide.
- A law in Mississippi — currently blocked by a federal court — would shut down the state’s only remaining abortion provider.
- Similar laws were passed in Oklahoma and Louisiana but haven’t taken effect yet.
- TRAP laws also threaten to close clinics in Wisconsin, but Planned Parenthood and the ACLU are challenging it in federal court.