Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP) Laws

Targeted Regulations of Abortion Providers (TRAP) are laws that aim to restrict abortion access by restricting and regulating abortion care and abortion providers specifically. These laws include requirements for hospital admitting privileges for abortion providers, building requirements (such as a requirement that two hospital gurneys can fit side by side in the hallways), location requirements (such as not being located within a certain distance of schools), and other restrictions that do not improve safety of abortion care. Although these laws are advanced under the guise of protecting women’s health, it has become evident that these laws are tools to close down abortion clinics and restrict access to care. The true intent—and effect—of these laws is to close abortion clinics. In many states where these laws have gone into effect, clinics have been forced to close and people in need of abortion must travel greater distances and jump through more hoops to attain medical care. In Whole Women’s Health v. Hellerstedt (2016), the Supreme Court found that a TRAP law in Texas requiring that abortion providers have admitting privileges within 30 miles of a hospital and meet the requirements of an ambulatory surgical center to be unconstitutional. In the majority decision, Justice Stephen Breyer wrote, “Each [restriction] places a substantial obstacle in the path of women seeking a pre-viability abortion, each constitutes an undue burden on abortion access, and each violates the Federal Constitution.” However despite this decision, these laws have continued to persist in some states and create immense barriers to providing and accessing care.

In fact, the Supreme Court has just agreed to hear another case about a nearly identical TRAP law in Louisiana, June Medical Services v. Gee. Some legal scholars believe that the most likely reason that the Supreme Court would agree to hear such a similar case, especially so soon after Whole Women’s Health, is because of the two new conservative Justices on the Court, and the court’s desire to break the only recently-established precedent.

What are TRAP Laws?

  • Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP) | August 25, 2015

    In this article, the Center for Reproductive Rights describes what TRAP laws are and some of their impacts on abortion care. Of note, this article was written in 2015, before Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, a major Supreme Court case regarding TRAP laws.

A toolkit to better understand the TRAP laws and their impact:

  • Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP) Laws | February 1, 2018

    This Guttmacher Institute web-page is a toolkit for advocates, service providers, and policymakers to access data and information regarding the content of TRAP laws and their impacts on pregnant people. As described by the Guttmacher Institute, “[this toolkit] includes information on state laws and policies, a synthesis of the relevant research, information on states in which the issue has been debated in the past three years and links to state-specific data.”

Updated information which states have active TRAP laws:

  • Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers | January 1, 2020

    The Guttmacher Institute regularly updates this web-page which outlines existing TRAP laws and the states in which they are currently active.

Seeing these restrictions play out in Texas:

  • Life and death in Texas: abortion frontline of America | Leah Green, Tom Silverstone, and Richard Sprenger | July 17, 2017

    In this segment, The Guardian video producer Leah Green travels to El Paso and Austin to expose the restrictions to abortion access in Texas, interview those that have worked to reduce abortion access, and better understand the experiences of Texans who need access to abortion care.

The Impact of TRAP Laws in Mississippi: 

  • The Last Clinic

    Documentary | Maisie Crow and Alissa Quart | January 1, 2013

    In this short film, award-winning filmmaker and photographer Maisie Crow and writer Alissa Quart document the effects of the abortion restrictions in Mississippi that threaten their last standing abortion clinic. This documentary portrays the lives of clinic doctors, protestors, as well as patients coming to the clinic for services. You can rent this movie for $3.99.

Another perspective on the impact of TRAP laws and the legal battle over them:


    This film, made by Dawn Porter, focuses on the battle over TRAP laws in Alabama and Texas before the Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt Supreme Court decision. Told from the perspective of physicians, clinic owners, and staff of the abortion clinics who are threatened to close, this documentary portrays the impacts of TRAP laws, which began passing in mass around 2011. This film also features interviews with the legal team that proceeded to argue Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt before the Supreme Court. Available for rent on Amazon.

A Review of the Literature: 

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