Targeted regulation of abortion providers (TRAP) laws are burdensome, medically unnecessary regulations designed to shut down reproductive-health-care clinics and make it more difficult for women to access abortion.
All medical facilities, including abortion providers, are subject to a number of health and safety requirements at both federal and local levels. And while all medical facilities should be held to the highest standards, TRAP laws impose onerous requirements on abortion providers that are not required for other medical facilities.
TRAP requirements have nothing to do with patient health and safety. Some, for example, dictate the size of janitors’ closets or parking spaces. There are even TRAP laws that require health centers to keep the grass outside cut to a certain height.
The goal of a TRAP law is simple: to regulate abortion clinics out of existence.
Abortion is a safe, legal medical procedure. It is inherently tied up with women’s right to privacy and their ability to control their own destinies. But the use of TRAP laws and other strict and discriminatory regulations to force clinics to shut down deeply impacts access to care. Ninety percent of U.S. counties have no abortion clinic.1 Minnesota has just five clinics; only one in Greater Minnesota. During the 2015-2016 legislative sessions, we saw a TRAP bill that would have forced four of those clinics to close.
Anti-choice politicians have claimed these burdensome regulations in the name of women’s health, but the courts have begun to call TRAP laws what they are: unjust, discriminatory burdens designed to shut down clinics. In 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against a Texas TRAP law known as HB2 in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt. The Court found that the imposed requirements had no benefit to the women of Texas and instead created a significant — and undue — burden to accessing abortion. The ruling reaffirmed a woman’s constitutional right and ability to access pre-viability abortion care, and gave additional context for the vague “undue burden” clause.2
Unfortunately, the decision in WWH v. Hellerstedt did not automatically invalidate the other TRAP laws still on the books across the nation. Pro-choice litigators and organizations are working to apply this reiterated standard to restrictions across the country. In the meantime, TRAP laws continue to limit women’s access to abortion care with medically unnecessary, anti-choice regulations.
1. Guttmacher Institute, 2014 Abortion Provider Census ↩
2. The 1992 Supreme Court case Planned Parenthood v. Casey ruled that states could impose restrictions and regulations so long as they did not create an “undue burden” on a woman’s access to abortion.↩