Recently a federal district court temporarily blocked Indiana restrictions on nonsurgical abortion that were scheduled to take effect Jan. 1. This type of legislation, known as targeted regulation of abortion providers or TRAP laws, claim to “protect women’s health” but, in fact, do just the opposite.
In the U.S. legally obtained abortion, especially during early gestation, is a safe procedure. According to government and private groups, fewer than 1 percent of abortions nationwide result in serious complications. Nonsurgical abortions are procedures available in the first several weeks of pregnancy and involve the administration of two pills.
The regulations, that would have taken effect Jan. 1 as part of Indiana Senate enrolled Act 371 and are included in the recent session’s Senate Bill 292 and House Bill 1316, require facilities that offer only nonsurgical abortions to meet the same building standards as surgical abortion facilities — meaning they would need recovery rooms, anesthesiology facilities and more. These requirements are unnecessary as nonsurgical abortion is already safe and highly regulated.
TRAP laws like SB292 and HB1316 don’t protect women’s health. In fact, they create barriers for women seeking earlier and safer abortions; this is what they really aim to accomplish.
What we are seeing in Indiana is similar to what has happened elsewhere, notably in Texas, where TRAP laws have forced more that 76 women’s health centers to shut their doors, ceasing to offer not only abortion but also family planning services, life-saving screenings and basic preventive health care. According to a University of Texas study, nearly half of Texas women recently seeking abortion reported that they were unable to access their preferred birth control method in the months prior to their unintended pregnancy.
More than 200 restrictions on abortion access have become law in more than 30 states since 2011, according to the Guttmacher Institute. Seventy of these restrictions were passed in 2013 alone. More than half of women of reproductive age in this country live in states where state legislatures are dictating and restricting access to safe and legal abortions.
In Indiana a growing number of groups concerned with health care and reproductive justice are fighting against this coordinated national effort. The fight against SEA 371, led by Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union, is one example.
If our state legislature continues on its path, a woman’s ability to access reproductive and preventive health care would be dependent on her ZIP code. Not just abortions, but care like birth control, screenings that detect cervical cancer and breast exams will be limited.
When our legislators introduce bills they say are in the name of patient safety, don’t fall nto their TRAP.
Margaret R. Watanabe, M.D., Ph.D., assistant clinical professor, Emerita, Department of Obstetrics-Gynecology, Indiana University School of Medicine
Kelly Kasper, M.D., associate professor, Department of Obstetrics-Gynecology, Indiana University School of Medicine