State laws discriminate against abortion clinics

states with TRAP laws vs. states with OBS laws
In the landmark case Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, the Supreme Court ruled that Texas regulations that specifically targeted abortion providers did not benefit patients and were unconstitutional. The Texas law had caused more than half of the abortion clinics in the state to close, putting a significant burden on patients seeking abortion care. The ruling highlighted the importance of understanding how TRAP (targeted regulation of abortion provider) laws differ from laws regulating other medical office procedures, and the need to inform policymakers and courts around the country.

New research from ANSIRH aims to fill this gap, examining facility laws across all fifty states and Washington, DC, and comparing laws that targeted abortion provision, laws that governed office-based surgeries, procedures, sedation or anesthesia use, and laws that targeted specific procedures other than abortion. The study found that regulations placed on abortion facilities are more numerous, expansive, and burdensome than laws regulating facilities providing other outpatient medical procedures.

The difference was especially stark in how the laws were applied. Laws for procedures other than abortion apply only to facilities that use a certain level of sedation and that perform surgeries or procedures. Most TRAP laws, on the other hand, apply to any facility that provides abortion even if it offers only medication abortion by giving the patient pills to take, uses no sedation, and doesn’t perform surgery or procedures at all. In other words, laws for other medical procedures were typically tied to the level of risk associated with the service provided, but TRAP laws were not.

This research confirms that states frequently single out abortion-providing facilities for more extensive and burdensome requirements than other health facilities despite the fact that abortion is very safe. The study is part of an ongoing project to explore what evidence-informed facility standards would look like in the context of abortion.