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 to access abortion.
All medical facilities, including abortion providers, already are subject to a number of health and safety requirements, both at the federal and local levels. All medical facilities should be held to the highest necessary safety standards, but TRAP laws unfairly impose requirements on abortion providers not imposed on other medical providers.
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 TRAP laws is simple: to close abortion clinics by imposing on them excessive, unnecessary and costly regulations. Ninety percent of U.S. counties have no abortion clinic.1
In 2016, the Supreme Court ruled against a Texas TRAP law in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, finding that the law’s requirements had no benefit to the women of Texas and, in fact, created a significant burden to accessing abortion. The ruling reaffirmed a constitutional right and ability to access pre-viability abortion care, but did not automatically invalidate the other TRAP laws still on the books across the nation.
In North Carolina, anti-abortion lawmakers in the General Assembly voted to establish additional regulations of abortion clinics. North Carolina does not have the extensive TRAP laws of states like Texas, but it does have some medically unnecessary, politically-targeted regulations, including:
– requiring physicians performing abortions after 16 to send records of the patient’s ultrasound images to the Department of Health and Human Services. If the abortion is performed after 20 weeks, the physician must provide evidence to the state that a medical emergency existed.
– abortion providers are banned from receiving an state funding for any purpose (this was a 2015 law to defund the state’s Planned Parenthood).
Pro-choice litigators and organizations are working to apply the standard reiterated in the Whole Women’s Health Supreme Court decision 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