In response to a national abortion ban introduced by Republicans last week and three years of state legislative attacks on access to abortion, a group of Democratic, pro-choice Congress members introduced the Women’s Health Protection Act of 2013 to the Senate on Wednesday.
The act would prevent states from passing Targeted Regulations of Abortion Providers, also known as TRAP laws. TRAP laws attempt to create barriers to abortion access by creating extraneous regulations for providers, such as requiring specific dimensions for clinic restrooms or mandating doctors performing abortions to enter into transfer agreements with a local hospital.
State legislatures have attempted to undermine a woman’s right to abortion in record numbers over the past three years. According to Laura Bassett of the Huffington Post, since 2010, some 54 abortion clinics have closed their doors across the nation due to restrictive legislation. Recent legislation in Texas alone has led to 12 abortion clinics closing, and cuts in funding in Texas have led to over 50 family planning clinics that do not perform abortions closing recently.
In 2011 through 2013, some 178 abortion restrictions were passed by state legislatures and signed into law. These are the highest numbers since the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973. According to NARAL Pro-Choice America, 45 states and the District of Columbia have laws subjecting abortion providers to burdensome restrictions not imposed on other medical professions.
“Our bill would stop states from subjecting reproductive health care providers to burdensome requirements that are not applied to medical professionals providing similar services,” Senator Richard Blumenthal and Representative Judy Chu, who are both co-sponsors of the act, wrote in the Huffington Post. “Our bill will nullify dangerous regulations that stifle access to abortion care and endanger women.” Blumenthal and Chu were joined in introducing the act by Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) as well as Representatives Marcia Fudge (D-OH) and Lois Frankel (D-FL).
It has been almost a decade since federal proactive legislation protecting abortion access has been passed. The last time was the passing of the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act in 1994.