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What are TRAP Laws? #wokewednesday

If you have followed the news over the past few years, you might have heard about your state legislature passing new regulations on abortion providers. Unlike other types of abortion restrictions, which attempt to shame, intimidate and burden women with everything from extended waiting periods to medically unnecessary transvaginal ultrasounds, these regulations are supposed to protect patients by putting extra restrictions on the doctors performing abortions and their facilities. Nothing wrong with that, right? We obviously want women receiving abortions to be as safe as possible.

However, these regulations are not a response to an actual need to protect patient safety. Collectively, they are known as TRAP (Targeted Regulations of Abortion Providers) laws and they have become an insidious and powerful new weapon in the war on choice.

Starting in 2010, anti-choice legislators in many states, including Arizona, started passing TRAP laws that were intended to place heavy financial and operational burdens on abortion providers. These include requiring abortion providers to have admitting privileges at a local hospital in case hospitalization is required and specifying that providers’ buildings meet the same requirements as an ambulatory surgical center, both of which are in effect in Arizona.

These laws are wholly unnecessary and do nothing to protect patient safety. But lack of evidence, and opposition from doctors of all kinds, has not stopped them, as protecting patients was never their real purpose.

TRAP laws differ significantly from restrictions on individual patients. While individual restrictions are awful, TRAP laws are in some ways more insidious. First, they are not as misogynistic on their surface as these restrictions on individual women. Couched in the language of protecting women, instead of shaming them, the laws can at first appear reasonable even to the majority of Americans who support a woman’s right to choose.

In addition, these laws have the capacity to do more damage because instead of discouraging individual women, they seek to shut down whole clinics and make accessing abortion impossible for women in an entire state. It has had that effect here in Arizona, which has seen a 40% decrease in abortion providers since 2011. 80% of the counties in Arizona have no abortion providers, requiring women in rural areas to travel long distances to access their right to a safe and legal abortion.

The Abortion Fund of Arizona fights the effects of TRAP laws by providing funding to women to access safe and legal abortions from the few independent providers who are bravely continuing to operate under these hostile conditions.


  • Center for Reproductive Rights

  • NARAL Pro-Choice America

  • Guttmacher Institute Abortion Facts: Arizona

  • AFAZ: Abortion Restrictions in Arizona

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