December 2, 2014 — While the rejection of "personhood" measures in Colorado (Amendment 67) and North Dakota (Measure 1) last month was "hailed as a victory for defenders of the right to legal abortion ... such measures serve as a distraction from a far bigger threat to abortion rights from onerous rules known as Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers, or 'TRAP laws,'" writes Caitlin Borgmann, professor at CUNY School of Law and editor of the Reproductive Rights Prof Blog, in a Los Angeles Times opinion piece.
Borgman writes, "Personhood measures are alarming (and almost certainly unconstitutional), but so far their main threat has been to drain money from pro-choice groups, which have had to spend inordinate sums to defeat them." By contrast, TRAP laws have been "stunningly effective" at restricting abortion because they "are designed to fly under the radar, by mimicking ordinary health regulations," even as they "target abortion facilities and providers with special, onerous regulations that are exceedingly costly or impossible to meet," Borgmann explains.
According to Borgmann, admitting privilege requirements, mandates that abortion clinics meet the same construction and building standards as ambulatory surgical centers, and other forms of TRAP laws have threatened or closed clinics in Mississippi and Texas. She notes that these clinic closures disproportionately affect low-income and marginalized women who do not have the means to "travel 150 miles or more" to "obtain a safe and legal abortion." As a result, such TRAP laws "quietly den[y] access to some women every day," even as personhood measures spur "great public outcry in part because they would affect all women," Borgmann writes.
Borgmann notes that although the Supreme Court has temporarily blocked some of the onerous regulations, "there is seemingly no end to the types of restrictions [TRAP law proponents] will invent." She writes, "It is up to the public to recognize these laws for what they are and to send a message to state legislators that they will not tolerate TRAP laws any more than they will accept personhood restrictions" (Borgmann, Los Angeles Times, 11/30).