Presented as common-sense measures to improve abortion safety, targeted regulation of abortion provider (TRAP) laws single out abortion clinics for stricter regulation than other medical facilities performing procedures of comparable risk. These stringent directives have not been historically necessary to ensure the safety of a low-risk procedure like abortion, and have forced the closure of many clinics. This study critically examines the scientific and legal justification for these laws.METHODS:
I conducted a review of scientific literature regarding abortion risk and the implications of lack of access to safe abortion. I also reviewed appellate and Supreme Court decisions and associated amicus briefs.RESULTS:
A review of the evidence shows that these laws are not only lacking in scientific merit, but also have the potential to cause dramatic reductions in access to safe, legal abortion. The mortality risk of abortion compares favorably with other outpatient medical procedures, and common activities like marathon running or driving 758 highway miles. TRAP laws have already forced closure of a significant number of clinics, and there is mounting evidence of delays in obtaining care and increased attempts at self-abortion.CONCLUSION:
The public health impact of TRAP laws includes the risks of increased travel and abortion at later gestational ages, the negative health consequences of being denied abortion entirely, and the possible resurgence of illegal and potentially unsafe abortion. Physicians and public health policy makers should be deeply concerned about the lack of scientific basis for these laws, and for their potential to cause preventable harm.