March 4, 2015

#NMLEG Progressive Bill of the Day | 03-04-15 (Senate Democrats Defeat TRAP Law)

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While it was a horribly anti-progressive bill itself, a progressive victory was won last night as the Senate Public Affairs Committee tabled a sneaky anti-abortion bill that would have had serious consequences for abortion access had it passed.

Senator Craig Brandt’s “Physician Admitting Privileges for Abortions” bill would have required doctors who perform abortions to also have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of where the procedure is performed. These kinds of laws are known as TRAP laws (Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers) and are simply another strategy that abortion opponents are using to slowly chip away at abortion access.

Sen. Brandt’s bill was tabled on a party-line vote last night, with all the Democrats voting against it (Senators Ortiz y Pino, Stewart, Ivery-Soto, and Candelaria).

If you’re unfamiliar with these laws, here’s how an LA Times op-ed from last year described them:

Unlike personhood initiatives, TRAP laws are designed to fly under the radar, by mimicking ordinary health regulations. In reality, they target abortion facilities and providers with special, onerous regulations that are exceedingly costly or impossible to meet.

TRAP laws are particularly hard on poor women. When clinics are forced to close their doors, women with means can afford to travel to obtain a safe and legal abortion. But many low-income and marginalized women cannot travel 150 miles or more to a provider…TRAP laws are quietly denying access to some women every day.

Of course, Sen. Brandt’s law would only have required a 30 mile radius, but for women living in rural New Mexico counties (and the doctors that serve them) such a restriction would have essentially cut off all of their access to this extremely safe medical procedure.

This last point is important to reiterate. Abortions are incredibly safe medical procedures. Women experience complications from abortions less than 1% of the time. All healthcare providers, including abortion providers, prioritize patient safety, following regulations, licensing requirements, and constantly updated training in order to deliver high-quality, safe care.

Further, abortion providers are already well regulated. In addition to rigorous, ongoing trainings providers attend (as well as a slew of medical standards and guidelines they follow), abortion providers are already regulated by:

  • Federal Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA);
  • Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA);
  • Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requirements;
  • New Mexico state and local regulations, including building and fire codes
  • Auditors
  • NM Medical Board
  • CMS oversight

The anti-abortion extremists pushing these laws often cite 911 calls from abortion clinics as a way to “prove” that abortions are unsafe and TRAP laws are needed. This happened last night during the public comment portion of the committee hearing.

ProgressNow NM undertook an investigation a few years back that disproved such claims and showed that Project Defending Life and Operation Rescue (two prevalent anti-abortion groups active in NM and whose representatives were there last night) were manipulating 911 call data to dupe people into believing their specious claims.

TRAP laws are simply another way anti-abortion groups are trying to circumvent legal precedent and gradually chip away at abortion access. Senate Democrats stood strong last night against this latest intrusion. That’s something we should all be proud of.

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