What Are TRAP Laws?

TRAP laws, or Targeted Regulations of Abortion Providers, are laws that require women's health centers to follow regulations that other, similar outpatient medical facilities do not. These laws limit women's access to abortions, by either forcing some centers to close because they cannot meet the new requirements, or by driving up the cost of abortion procedures so much that some women can no longer afford them.


There are three main types of TRAP laws:

  1. licensing laws that force women's health centers, but no other outpatient medical facilities, to obtain and maintain a license, and also force them to adhere to other types of regulations

  2. laws that require women's health centers to be registered as Ambulatory Surgical Centers (ASCs), which are normally facilities that perform a variety of outpatient services, and thus require heightened standards because of the breadth of work that they do. Since abortion providers only perform one type of surgery, which does not require the same level of health and safety standards, the ASC requirements are burdensome on providers

  3. laws that require that abortions past a certain gestational age, usually at some point in the second trimester, be performed only in hospitals. Most of these requirements, however, have been ruled unconstitutional or overturned by other laws.

Virginia's TRAP Law, signed by Governor McDonnell in March 2011, is Senate Bill 924. There are no legitimate medical purposes for singling out abortion providers. Regulating abortion differently than other outpatient procedures that are safely provided in non-hospital medical facilities is playing politics with women's health and safety.


Laws that target only abortion providers (TRAP laws) have nothing to do with the safe delivery of services for women and everything to do with legislators' efforts to restrict access to reproductive healthcare.


Unnecessary and burdensome regulations could limit the continued availability of safe, legal first-trimester abortion in multiple locations throughout the state by forcing women's health centers to close. Early abortion care is already difficult to access in the Commonwealth, with 86% of Virginia's counties lacking any abortion providers.


Many abortion providers in Virginia offer an array of reproductive healthcare services to women as well as men. Overregulation would limit access to a wide range of preventive reproductive healthcare services including life-saving cancer screenings, family planning and STI testing and treatment,as well as early abortion.