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TRAP laws are dangerously chipping away at abortion access under the guise of 'women's health'

Targeted restrictions on abortion providers (TRAP) laws are costly, severe, and medically unnecessary requirements imposed on abortion providers and women's health centers. Often pushed by anti-abortion politicians under the guise of "women's health," the real aim of TRAP laws is to shut down abortion providers and make it more difficult for people to access abortion.

Medical experts like the American Medical Association and American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists oppose TRAP laws because they don’t improve safety — just the opposite. TRAP laws hurt people by blocking access to safe medical care. In fact ,TRAP laws have devastated access to safe, legal abortion in Texas and hurt access in other states that have imposed them.

TRAP Building Requirements & Hospital Relationships

The landmark U.S. Supreme Court case Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt centered on two TRAP law provisions: a mandate that all abortion providers comply with onerous and medically unnecessary building requirements for ambulatory surgical centers (ASCs), and an unfair, also medically unnecessary requirement that doctors who provide abortions obtain hospital admitting privileges at a nearby hospital.

Abortion has a 99% safety record, according to the CDC and other experts. Rebuilding a health center to become an ASC is medically unnecessary and prohibitively expensive — it involves mandating the width of hallways, complex HVAC systems, down-to-the-inch dimensions for operating rooms, and specifications for outfitting janitor’s closets. The result of such onerous restrictions is simply fewer providers. Think about it: The width of hallways, paint colors, and janitors’ closets have little to do with actual patient care.

Same thing goes for admitting privileges: There is no medical basis for these TRAP laws. Abortion providers already have plans in the rare case of an emergency to ensure patient safety. In fact, abortion is so safe that doctors rarely admit patients to a hospital, which can make it hard or impossible for them to get privileges in the first place. Forcing them to obtain admitting privileges can also set up a catch-22 if the only local hospital is hostile to abortion access due to its religious affiliation, political pressure, or other reasons that have nothing to do with quality of medical care.

Even if doctors can surmount the extreme financial and logistical hurdles to build an ASC, the admitting privileges restriction poses a virtual brick wall to providing care in some areas. Essentially, you’d have a building — but no doctors who can provide care there.  It’s no surprise that the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Medical Association both oppose mandated admitting privileges.

TRAP Law Location & Reporting Requirements

Admitting privilege and building requirements aren’t the only types of TRAP laws harming access to safe and legal abortion across the country. Here are two other abortion TRAP law types you should watch:

The Impact of TRAP Laws on Abortion Access

Targeted regulation of abortion providers has resulted in the has resulted in the closing of health centers — which, in turn, has delayed abortion care and even kept safe, legal abortion out of reach.

It’s a snowball effect. Consider this:

  • Between 2013 and 2014, admitting privilege and building requirements from Texas TRAP laws caused the number of abortion providers in the state to fall sharply.

  • In that time, the number of women who live more than 100 miles from an abortion clinic in Texas tripled.

  • Delaying abortion services has increased the risk and the cost of an abortion. (Abortion is extremely safe, but it is safest  the earliest it’s provided.)

Of course, traveling longer distances to abortion providers is especially burdensome for low-income people who have to find the money for transportation, take time off from work, and secure child care.

The Real Goal of TRAP Laws: Shutting Down Abortion Providers When They Can’t Comply

It’s never been more obvious that the targeted regulation of abortion providers is politically motivated.  Politicians are not medical experts, and yet they have written TRAP legislation to chip away at abortion access — law by law, state by state — and undermine Roe v. Wade. Their end goal? Shutting down health centers; making safe, legal abortion hard or even impossible to access; and leaving hundreds of thousands without care.

Bottom line: Your ability to make a medical decision shouldn’t depend on where you live, or whether you have the luxury of traveling out of state for health care.

We will never stop fighting for the right to access safe, legal abortion.

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