RMC Responds: Trap Laws Damage Women and Families

rmc_responds1Across the nation, anti-choice legislators are quietly imposing new regulations on women’s healthcare clinics.  In response to the recent challenge against an anti-choice Indiana law, one Facebook commenter expressed that she found it “hard to believe that anyone looking for access to safe medical services are upset that they might have to go a facility that must be safe for them.”

At face value, new legislation to regulate reproductive health clinics are often portrayed as commonsense protective measures so it’s no surprise that many Americans allow these restrictions to pass by unnoticed.  In fact, these reactions are exactly what anti-choice activists are expecting from the American public – the passing of seemingly uncontroversial bills allows them to quietly chip away at basic freedoms without much attention.  Dig deeper into this legislation, though, and it becomes all too clear that laws targeting abortion providers actually make a safe procedure riskier, undermine individual rights, and fly in the face of Republican principles.


The reality is that the new wave of healthcare clinic regulations is not something that can be ignored.  The fact is that reproductive health clinics are already safe.  Abortion is an extremely safe procedure, with less than 0.3% of patients experiencing serious complications, and clinics are already subject to standard medical regulations.   Reproductive healthcare clinics also adhere to strict procedure guidelines developed by scientific advisors and the Agency for Health Research and Quality, which govern abortion procedures and care.  There is simply no way around the fact that women’s healthcare clinics comply with modern guidelines and provide incredibly safe services to their patients.  By imposing different standards, and by threatening physician’s autonomy in providing care, legislators are hindering doctors from providing the best care possible.

No other area of healthcare is subject to the same attacks that women’s health now faces, shedding light on the fact that these regulations are deliberate assaults and not commonsense safety measures.  These new laws, known as Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers, or TRAP laws, impose standards that are not deemed necessary for other, more dangerous medical procedures.  Some of the most benign of these TRAP laws require clinics to meet the same standards as ambulatory surgical centers, which accommodate much more invasive surgeries and provide for much higher levels of sedation.

TRAP laws are not just regulation – they are severe overregulation. Perhaps nothing is more convincing of this fact that the actual requirements imposed by these laws.  As two doctors recently expressed in response to the Indiana law, these new regulations do quite the opposite of what anti-choice supporters claim – TRAP laws actually make women’s health less safe.  Twenty-seven states now have TRAP laws on the books; all are redundant and medically unnecessary. Regulations include rules about hallway width, parking lot size, type of sink, and ventilation system.  These restrictions truly speak for themselves – if anti-choice activists actually cared about women’s health, they would not be fixated on the size of a clinic’s parking lot.  The true motive behind TRAP laws is to impose such great costs on clinics that they are forced to close their doors.  The vast majority of these clinics provide vital care for women including cancer and STD screenings as well as education and access to affordable preventive care; when these doors are closed where will these families go? 

TRAP regulations don’t make safe clinics any safer, but they do increase medical risks.  So the next time someone says that imposing impossible standards on clinics is common sense, speak up and let them know that overregulation is bad for women and bad for our nation.  TRAP laws are a serious threat, and we as a nation need to wake up and acknowledge the serious risks before it is too late.

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