TRAP Laws: Slowly Chipping Away at Abortion Access

Repeal TRAP laws nowThis week marks the third anniversary of the decision in Planned Parenthood Southeast, Inc. v. Strange, a lawsuit that challenged HB 57. This bill, passed by Alabama’s state legislature, required every physician who performs an abortion at a clinic to have staff privileges at a local hospital. Planned Parenthood clinics in Birmingham and Mobile, as well as providers at Reproductive Health Services in Montgomery, would have been unable to obtain hospital staff privileges for various reasons, including a hospital board’s opposition to abortion, requirements that doctors admit between 12 and 48 patients a year to retain staff privileges, and stipulations that the physicians live within a certain radius of the hospital. (Ridiculous, right?)

Luckily, on August 4, 2014, a federal court blocked the requirement that abortion providers obtain admitting privileges at local hospitals — a victory for reproductive rights, but just one small battle in the larger war against abortion access in the United States.


We will not let our state laws be templates for other anti-choice legislation.


Bills like HB 57 are called Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers laws. TRAP laws selectively focus on medical facilities that provide abortions to make it more difficult for reproductive health care providers to offer abortion services to their patients. In a nutshell, TRAP laws segregate abortion from regular medical procedures, discourage doctors from providing abortion services because of the tedious requirements to do so, and dramatically increase the cost of obtaining an abortion.

Many state legislatures pass these restrictions by arguing that abortion is a risky medical procedure. However, according to the Guttmacher Institute, “abortion is one of the safest surgical procedures for women in the United States. Fewer than 0.05% of women obtaining abortions experience a complication.” Continue reading

Pro-Choice Friday News Rundown

  • Our smarmy Vice President Mike Pence was all too eager to cast the tie-breaking Senate vote to advance legislation allowing states the right to block Title X funds from going to Planned Parenthood. In case you missed my January analysis of his anti-life legislative record, this guy is the absolute worst. He’s PLINO — “pro-life in name ONLY” — as he backs policies that do nothing to help the well-being of children or families. This move will only hurt the scores of low-income women who depend on us for care. (Politico)
  • The horrendous “born alive” bill I covered in the last rundown was passed by our wretched legislators. It now heads to Gov. Ducey’s desk. (AZ Central)
  • Planned Parenthood has a real asset in our president, Cecile Richards. She’s calling out Ivanka Trump bigly in a recent interview. By the way — Ms. Richards will be at our annual luncheon in Phoenix on April 13! (Buzzfeed)
  • North Carolina’s preposterously cruel “bathroom bill” continues to make news. The law stands to cost the state a cool $3.76 billion in revenue. And, according to this article, “that number will increase by hundreds of millions of dollars if the NCAA follows through on the threat it made last week to block the state from hosting any events through 2022. The NCAA is making those placement decisions this week.” Lawmakers there have apparently reached a deal to repeal it, but the LGBTQ community has valid concerns about the initiative doubling down on discrimination and not protecting people from discrimination until 2020. (HuffPo)
  • Trumpcare may have gone down in a blaze of not-glory last week, but here are seven ways the Trump Administration could make the Affordable Care Act “explode.” Ugh. (NBC News)
  • But hey, maybe there’s a possibility we could achieve the dream of a single-payer/universal health care system soon? (NYT)
  • Just a reminder: SCOTUS nominee Neil Gorsuch has an ABYSMAL record on women’s issues. (NBC News)
  • No Baby Should Be Born With HIV. What Will It Take to Save Them All? (Time)
  • The question I constantly ask myself: Why has it become so hard to get an abortion??? (The New Yorker)
  • In 105 counties, Planned Parenthood is the only full-service birth control clinic! (Vox)
  • Women’s Health has a great post on how to communicate your STD status to a potential partner. (Women’s Health)
  • Lifehacker has a very informative post on individual state laws that is a MUST for bookmarking to keep up with the kajillion harebrained schemes being plotted by lawmakers nationwide. (Lifehacker)
  • Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who is sooooo pro-life he hasn’t bothered to adopt or foster ANY children in need, has signed new legislation that forces doctors to “investigate” the backgrounds of their patients seeking abortions. If doctors fail at this oppressive task, they could face prison. (Bustle)
  • Surprise, surprise — states with the most Planned Parenthood clinics have lower rates of teen births and STDs. (Glamour)
  • The two yahoos who tried to destroy Planned Parenthood with unlawfully recorded, heavily edited recordings are facing 15 felony charges. Hope they follow the yellow brick road right to prison! (Rewire)
  • Get a load of this bulls****: The state of Iowa was considering a bill that would allow the parents of INDEPENDENT, SINGLE, ADULT WOMEN to make medical decisions for them with regard to abortion. (Raw Story)
  • Forced-birth advocate, opponent of the ACA’s zero-copay birth control requirement, and first-class dummy John Fleming has been tapped as deputy assistant secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services. Fleming, who is also sooooo pro-life he hasn’t bothered to adopt or foster ANY children in need (according to my research), was duped by an Onion satire article that reported Planned Parenthood was opening an $8 billion “abortion-plex” complete with a theater and water slide. (Jezebel)
  • Another awful appointment to the Department of Health and Human Services? Roger Severino — an anti-LGBTQ activist who’s spoken out against protections for LGBTQ individuals. He’ll now be comfy and cozy in the department’s Office of Civil Rights. #FacePalm (LGBTQ Nation)
  • If you’ve taken comfort in the fact that you have private health insurance and may not be affected by some of the nonsense going on with the ACA, please take discomfort in the fact that the GOP wants to restrict private insurance from covering abortion too. (Guttmacher)
  • I really appreciated this post via Cosmo that expounds upon why there is no economic justice for women without abortion rights. We can never really be whole, autonomous, independent, upwardly mobile persons without the right to control our own bodies, and it is NOT a coincidence that women and children are more likely to suffer from poverty than men. Our fates are inextricably linked to our reproductive choices, and the lack thereof. (Cosmopolitan)
  • I’ll leave you with a laugh, Dear Readers. A recent survey showed that 52 percent of men don’t believe women’s affordable access to birth control has EVER affected their lives. HAHAHA! Ninety-nine percent of women have used birth control, correct? So, what planet are these imbeciles living on??? Aren’t most of these respondents heterosexual, non-virgin men??? Ladies, try to resist the urge to call up all your male exes to demand a THANK YOU ON BEHALF OF YOUR BIRTH CONTROL for not making them fathers. Or, on second thought … maybe we should have a nationwide phone bank to do just that! The turnout would be bigger than the Women’s March. #DialMeIn (HuffPo)

Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt: Finally, Facts Matter

On Monday, June 27, 2016, the Supreme Court decided that Texas HB2 was unconstitutional, eliminating requirements for Texas doctors to have hospital admitting privileges near their clinics and for abortion clinics to become surgical facilities. Many fine summaries of this landmark decision popped up within hours of the decision. See Planned Parenthood’s press release and “The Court once again makes the ‘undue-burden’ test a referendum on the facts” on SCOTUS Blog.


On Monday, the Supreme Court demanded that laws be supported by facts.


What struck me most about the majority opinions written by Justices Breyer and Ginsburg was the lack of assertion and conjecture so often found in the court’s previous abortion case decisions. Recall Justice Kennedy’s 2007 Gonzales v. Carhart opinion upholding Congress’ Partial-Birth Abortion Act of 2003: “We find no reliable data” that abortion causes women emotional harm, but we find it nonetheless “self-evident” and “unexceptional to conclude” that “some women” who choose to terminate their pregnancies suffer “regret,” “severe depression,” “loss of esteem,” and other ills. “Some women”? Did we really uphold a law based upon this kind of neo-paternalistic, fuzzy thinking?

Not this time out. The Supreme Court put future litigants on notice: Facts matter, science matters, logic matters, common-sense inference matters. Unsupported assertions? Nah. Consultants parading as scientists? Not so much. In workmanlike fashion, dealing with abortion in a frank and unapologetic way, the majority read into law 15 separate District Court findings of fact gleaned from stipulations, depositions, and testimony. Further, the court chastised Texas for “attempting to label an opposing expert witness, Doctor Grossman, as irresponsible.” Breyer writes, “making a hypothesis — and then attempting to verify that hypothesis with further studies, as Dr. Grossman did — is not irresponsible. It is an essential element of the scientific method. The District Court’s decision to credit Dr. Grossman’s testimony was sound, particularly given that Texas provided no credible experts to rebut it.” Wow — The Supremes defend the scientific method. Color me happy.  Continue reading

Courting Women

Sotomayor, Ginsburg, and Kagan: Sitting Supreme Court Justices

Sotomayor, Ginsburg, and Kagan: Sitting Supreme Court Justices

“… [T]he difference of having three women on the Supreme Court. I think that all the justices obviously are important in that court, but it really makes a difference to begin to have a court that more reflects the diversity of this country, and I think women who can really speak from a woman’s point of view, just how impactful these kind of laws that specifically target women and women’s access to health care, how impactful they are. And I was really grateful to have the women’s voices in the room.”

Cecile Richards, Planned Parenthood president, March 2, 2016, commenting on that day’s oral arguments in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt

Me, too, Cecile.

Courting women. Let’s snatch that phrase from the parlor in a Jane Austen novel and lob it into the Supreme Court chambers, making courting not the passive “pick me” word of yesteryear, but an assertive “empower me” word of today.

Power, judiciously applied, is what Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan demonstrated during oral arguments in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt. They formed a tag team of relentless logic, assertiveness, and deep understanding of the predicament of women in Texas needing timely, accessible abortion care — and not getting it. The court was probing two provisions of Texas HB2, the law that requires that (1) physicians performing abortions must have admitting privileges at a hospital near their clinics and (2) all abortions must be performed in ambulatory surgical centers (ASCs, mini-hospitals). (See SCOTUSblog “Round Up” and Roe v. Wade: Texas Then and Now for additional background on this important case.)

Justices explored the elements that create an unconstitutional “undue burden” for women seeking an abortion by questioning attorney Stephanie Toti, representing Whole Woman’s Health, and Solicitor General Scott Keller, representing Texas. Here are some highlights: Continue reading