Still Trapped

Even after the SCOTUS declared, one year ago this week in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, that the government cannot place an undue burden on a woman’s access to abortion care, laws that contradict this decision still exist across the country—and are being proposed by legislators over and over again.

Wikimedia / Creative Commons

EMW Women’s Surgical Center is the last remaining abortion clinic in Kentucky—and it is leading the charge against the Bluegrass State’s anti-abortion laws. Kentucky has put various regulations on abortion clinics and providers in an effort to chip away at access. Abortion clinics must comply with structural standards of surgical centers, and providers must obtain a transfer agreement with a local hospital. These regulations place burdensome requirements on clinics and providers because the intent is to close those clinics down—and the laws that make them possible endanger the continued operation of this clinic and clinics across the country.

Targeted Regulation of Abortion Provider (TRAP) laws are currently on the books in 24 states, and they can mandate anything from the location of the clinic to the width of its hallways. Passed in the name of “keeping patients safe,” these laws are actually junk science come to life as anti-abortion propaganda. Abortion is one of the safest procedures in modern medicine, and it has been proven that clinics do not need to meet these sorts of requirements in order to ensure the health and safety of patients receiving abortions.

A lawsuit filed by EMW Surgical Center in U.S. District Court in response to the state government’s claim that there were deficiencies in its license challenges the legality of Kentucky’s TRAP laws—and calls them out as an attempt to infringe on women’s constitutional rights. EMW Surgical Center is currently open due to a federal judge in Louisville’s temporary block on Governor Matt Bevin’s attempts to shut it down, but this isn’t a victory. Kentucky’s highest court will hear oral arguments in EMW’s case on August 18. Their decision could have a national impact—and could shut EMW’s doors.

The Kentucky case, should it ultimately head to the Supreme Court, varies from Hellerstedt in that it has farther-reaching implications. Instead of targeting a single state law, it seeks to undermine the very notion of TRAP laws—and could put an end to them on a national level.

Without access, there is no choice. We must stay vigilant and fight against TRAP laws in every state as if they were our own, and we must not be fooled. These laws are simply an attempt to take away women’s constitutional right to an abortion—nothing less and nothing more.

About and

Micaela Brinsley recently graduated from the Performance Studies department at NYU Tisch School of the Arts. Born and raised in Tokyo, Japan, she is a feminist theatre artist, activist and writer with a background in performance art and labor rights. Passionate about social justice, she is an avid conversationalist committed to making the world a more just place. She has been writing for Ms. since the summer of 2017. You can contact her at mbrinsley [at]
Ciarra Davison is a former Ms. Editorial Intern who graduated from UCLA, where she studied English and wrote for the Politics section of FEM Newsmagazine. After a year and a half of traveling and working throughout Europe, Central and South America, she now lives in Washington, D.C., where she reports on the ground for Ms. She works to bring underrepresented stories to light, and in her spare time, enjoys hiking towards waterfalls and dancing while cooking.