Abortion opponents are chipping away at reproductive rights from all angles — and one particularly insidious attack on women’s health is currently advancing in states across the country. Under the guise of “protecting women’s safety,” Republican lawmakers are successfully pushing unnecessary, complicated restrictions on abortion clinics that will ultimately force them to close their doors.
The Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers, or TRAP laws, tend to capture fewer headlines than other types of abortion restrictions, largely because they’re complicated pieces of legislation that may not seem outrageous on the surface. But women’s health advocates warn they actually represent one of the most serious threats to reproductive rights in the nation. This is an effective anti-choice tactic because it’s an indirect method of restricting abortion access — rather than banning the procedure itself, TRAP laws impose so much red tape on abortion providers that clinics are unable to continue providing reproductive care to the women who need it. Here are seven states that are threatening to undermine women’s right to legal abortion services by shutting down abortion clinics:
1. ALABAMA: On Tuesday, the Alabama House approved a TRAP bill that has already been passed by the state’s Senate. After the two chambers reconcile their versions of the legislation, it will head straight to Gov. Robert Bentley (R) — who is expected to sign it into law. Even though the bill’s sponsor claims that the measure is “truly is a women’s rights bill” because it “protects the right of women having an abortion to have it in a healthy, safe environment,” that couldn’t be further from the truth. HB 57 would actually simply force that state’s five remaining abortion clinics to close their doors. According to Planned Parenthood Action Fund’s president, Cecile Richards, it would “essentially ban abortion statewide.”
2. INDIANA: The Indiana House passed a TRAP bill on Tuesday, and it will be sent to Gov. Mike Pence’s (R) desk after the Senate — which approved the measure back in February — agrees to the House’s wording. SB 371 initially sparked outrage because, in its original version, it would have required women taking the abortion pill to undergo two invasive transvaginal ultrasounds. But the Indiana GOP removed that provision in order to ensure its passage. Even though the version of SB 371 that passed this week seems tame in comparison to the first version of the legislation, it’s still a dangerous attack on health clinics that threatens to force a Planned Parenthood clinic to stop providing medication abortions.
3. NORTH DAKOTA: This state made national headlines by imposing the strictest abortion law in the nation, a six-week ban that reproductive rights advocates are already preparing to battle in court. But the package of abortion restrictions that Gov. Jack Dalrymple (R) recently approved also included a TRAP law that may force the state’s only abortion clinic, the Red River Women’s Clinic, to close its doors. The clinic’s director, Tammi Kromenaker, acknowledges the TRAP bill is “concerning” — but she is fully committed to fighting to stay open.
4. TEXAS: Over 90 percent of Texas women already live in a county without an abortion clinic. But Republican lawmakers in the state want that number to rise even further. The legislature is advancing a TRAP measure that could force most of the state’s 38 abortion clinics to shut down. SB 537 would require all clinics that perform abortions to adhere to the same standards as surgical clinics — even though many of them simply administer the abortion pill to women, which is not actually a surgical procedure.
5. VIRGINIA: Virginia sparked a firestorm last year when the state’s supposedly nonpartisan Board of Health approved unnecessary restrictions on abortion clinics. Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) quietly approved the TRAP measure on the week before the Christmas and New Year’s holidays, but that move didn’t go unnoticed by women’s health advocates — thousands of whom have submitted comments to the Board to protest the new rules. “Put women’s health above politics. Don’t let red tape trap women,” the protesters proclaimed.
6. MISSISSIPPI: Just like North Dakota, Mississippi only has one abortion clinic left in the entire state. And Republican lawmakers there have already successfully forced through a TRAP measure, which became law at the beginning of this year. The new restrictions require the clinic’s doctors to secure hospital admitting privileges, but all seven hospitals in the surrounding area have denied them — and Mississippi’s last abortion clinic is awaiting a hearing that will determine whether it is allowed to continue operating. Still, women health’s advocates want Republican politicians to know that they’re not going anywhere, painting the clinic’s building a bright pink as an act of defiance.
7. NORTH CAROLINA: North Carolina is getting in on the TRAP action with SB 308, a bill filed about two weeks ago. Even though women in the state already have to overcome several hurdles before terminating a pregnancy — including undergoing a 24-hour waiting period, participating in a mandatory counseling session, and listening to a doctor describe the images resulting from a forced ultrasound — Republicans also want to over-regulate abortion clinics with a bill similar to Mississippi’s. Protests are already erupting in the state’s capital, as women hope to send a clear message to their lawmakers: “You don’t walk in a woman’s shoes. So don’t try to legislate her health decisions.”