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Unnecessary limits hurt women’s health

Recently a federal district court temporarily blocked Indiana restrictions on non-surgical abortion that were scheduled to take effect Jan. 1.

This type of legislation, known as targeted regulation of abortion providers (TRAP), claims to protect women’s health but in fact does just the opposite.

In the U.S., legally obtained abortion, especially during early gestation, is a very safe procedure. According to government and private groups, fewer than 1 percent of abortions nationwide result in serious complications. Nonsurgical abortions are procedures available only in the first several weeks of pregnancy that involve the administration of two pills.

The regulations, which would have taken effect as part of Senate Enrolled Act 371 (included in this 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; nonsurgical abortion is already highly regulated.

TRAP laws 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 than 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 live in states where legislatures are dictating and restricting access to safe, legal abortion.

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-Indiana, is one example.

If our 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 and cancer screenings would be limited.

When our legislators introduce bills this session they say are in the name of patient safety, don’t fall into their TRAP.

Dr. Margaret R. Watanabe (left), is assistant clinical professor emerita and Dr. Kelly Kasper is an associate professor in the Department of Obstetrics-Gynecology at the Indiana University School of Medicine. They wrote this for Indiana newspapers.