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July-11-00

Entrapment

A push by antiabortion groups to impose new state health and safety laws on women's clinics comes neatly packaged as concern for women's welfare. Pro-choice groups have dubbed them TRAP (Targeted Restrictions on Abortion Providers) laws, charging that such regulations are no more than an underhanded attack on a woman's right to choose. Gloria Feldt, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America told Ms., "Clearly, when anti-choice legislators concoct a bill whose real purpose is to reduce access to abortion, but frame it as though it were to improve women's health, they have been very clever."

The regulations include specified widths for clinic corridors, particular hours for cutting clinic lawns, and requiring tests that are not medically indicated. All these measures, which will cost clinics thousands of dollars, are unrelated to the safety of abortion procedures. In 1999 Arizona, Louisiana, Michigan, and Texas all passed TRAP laws. This year, laws were introduced in Ohio, South Carolina, and Virginia (where the bill was later defeated). TRAP laws "will inevitably raise the cost of abortion," says Bonnie Scott Jones, staff attorney for the Center for Reproductive Law and Policy (CRLP), thus restricting access for poor women, who are already denied most Medicaid-funded abortions. And clinics facing heavy costs and administrative nightmares may stop offering abortions.

TRAP law supporters claim the laws are a response to increasing numbers of abortion-related fatalities. But, in fact, between 1972 and 1992 (the most recent statistics available) the fatality rate decreased by 58 percent. And the Centers for Disease Control reports there is less than one fatality per 100,000 abortions. "These laws are not about making abortion safer," says CRLP spokesperson Margie Kelly, "but about making it virtually impossible for women to access abortion or to afford the procedures."

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