By Miriam Stiefel, ACLU of Virginia Reproductive Freedom Project Intern
Texas and Virginia have something in common – both recently passed a Targeted Regulations of Abortion Providers (TRAP) law. Virginia’s TRAP law forces clinics that provide abortions to make medically unnecessary architectural changes to their facilities, while Texas’ TRAP law requires doctors to have admitting privileges at a local hospital. An admitting privileges requirement is a backdoor attempt to shut providers down. No matter the form it takes, TRAP harms women’s health: one clinic in Virginia and more than a dozen in Texas have already gone out of business because of TRAP, with more closures in Virginia and Texas expected. Fewer clinics means women must travel great distances to obtain abortion services. This places a heavy burden on Virginia’s low-income women, a burden compounded when Virginia’s mandatory ultrasound and 24-hour waiting period prior to abortion forces a woman to make two trips to the clinic.
As we wrote last week, requiring links to hospitals, such as admitting privileges, does little to ensure the safety of patients. Instead, it grants hospitals veto power over whether an abortion provider can exist, undermining a woman’s right to make decisions about her reproductive health care. A federal district court in Texas granted a stay, which blocked Texas’ TRAP law from taking immediate effect. However, a federal appeals court reversed the stay, allowing the law to go into effect. As a result, one-third of Texas’ women’s health centers were forced to close. In November, a group of abortion rights organizations appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court to temporary block the law, but the Supreme Court declined to intervene. This battle will continue in January, when the federal appeals court hears full arguments on the law.
Despite the setbacks in court, with 80 percent of Texans opposing this bill, the fight is far from over. We stand with Texas women and urge Virginia legislators to take note that two-thirds of U.S. voters want abortion to remain legal.
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