It’s Official: Abortion Is More Regulated Than Any Other Health Care Service

Written by Kylie Cheung

A new study published in the American Journal of Public Health confirmed what many reproductive rights advocates have long known: abortion is more regulated and legislated than any other health care service.

The study, conducted by researchers at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), analyzed facility standards and office-based surgery regulations in all 50 states, looking specifically at the disparities in the way abortion facilities are regulated in comparison to other medical facilities. Those researchers found that laws around abortion facilities are “more numerous, expansive and burdensome than laws regulating facilities that provide other medical procedures.”

A 2014 study from UCSF found that only a quarter of one percent of all surgical abortions result in major complications. You are quite literally 40 times more likely to die from having a colonoscopy than an abortion, and 90 times more likely to die giving birth than having the procedure. And yet, between 2011 and 2016, a quarter of all of the more than 1,000 restrictions limiting abortion access since Roe v. Wade were signed into law. That’s because, far too often, regulations on abortion often have nothing to do with women’s health and safety—and everything to do with politics and lawmakers’ personal disapproval of the procedure.

Most common among these are TRAP laws—short for the targeted regulation of abortion providers. Their purpose is to shut down abortion facilities by placing medically unnecessary requirements on them, many of which are too expensive or burdensome for abortion providers operating on limiting funding to be able to meet. Some of these requirements include requiring providers have nearby hospital admitting privileges, mandating hallway dimensions for abortion clinics and requiring clinics to have contracts with local ambulance companies.

In the years between 2013, when the omnibus abortion bill HB 2 was signed into law in Texas, and 2016, when the Supreme Court struck it down, more than half of the state’s 41 abortion clinics were shut down and could no longer offer abortion services to the states millions of women of reproductive age. HB 2 set off a wave of TRAP laws across the country, however, which remain in place—and many clinics that shutter under these laws never open again, even if the laws are repealed or struck down.

The consequences for the last five years lawmakers spent hyper-policing of women’s access to crucial health care have been steep—pregnancy and birth-related deaths in the U.S. have been on the rise, disproportionately so in states with more stringent abortion laws. And extraneous and politically-motivated regulations placed on women’s health clinics don’t just burden and endanger women’s health—they also reinforce existing unfair stigma around the procedure and those who provide it, endangering the lives of abortion providers and their staff as well as abortion advocates.

There are myriad health care services less safe and with higher complication risks than abortion, offered in facilities that don’t have to meet any of these requirements. TRAP laws and others like them are predicated on the false premise that abortion is dangerous—and that women will somehow wind up in ambulances being rushed to nearby hospitals or carried in stretchers in the hallways of abortion clinics, for making decisions about their own bodies.  But with the highest maternal death rates in the industrialized world and credible studies showing a correlation between depression and anxiety and being denied abortion access, it’s become increasingly clear that laws restricting abortion access achieve quite the opposite.

It could take years for women to regain access to the myriad abortion clinics shut down by TRAP laws across the country, and it could take even more time for society to eventually consider abortion as safe—if not safer—than any other medical procedure. But a strong first step would be for the general public—and plenty of lawmakers among them—to listen to medical experts.

This post originally appeared on Ms. Magazine

Photo Credit: Kylie Cheyung/Flickr


Marie W
Marie W1 months ago

Thank you.

jan b
jan b6 months ago

So easy for men to say....and so easy to send others to do their bidding regardless of the danger. . IN the U.S., about 700 women die of pregnancy-related complications and 52,000 experience emergencies such as acute renal failure, shock, respiratory distress, aneurysms and heart surgery. An additional 34,000 barely avoid death. (CDC) The RISKS are no one elses and women are not FARM ANIMALS just for breeding. and a FETUS is only potentially a human being there is much more to the production of making human life.

Karen H
Karen H6 months ago

Our misrepresentatives are such hypocrites! Marco Rubio has told me in several email responses, "I believe there is no human right more fundamental and more sacred than the right to life, and that every single human being is entitled to the protection of our laws. Since the Supreme Court’s erroneous decision in 1973, the lives of roughly 60 million babies have been terminated, denying them this basic right. It is a simple fact that the vast majority of these deaths were for reasons that had nothing to do with rape, incest, or the life of the mother being endangered." HOWEVER, when a Parkland student asked if he would continue taking NRA money, Rubio responded, "I will always accept the help of anyone who agrees with my agenda." He has different classifications of "life", and his "agenda" apparently values life in the womb but not in the classroom. Perhaps we should rename all schools "Uterus".

DAVID fleming
Dave f6 months ago


Nicole H
Nicole Heindryckx7 months ago

Each woman knows what the mental consequences are of getting an abortion. I know it, because my 1st husband gave me the choice : get an abortion, or I leave you with your child. Did I have a choice ? I don't think so. I had no parents I could turn to ; my parents in law would never contradict their son, I had no job at that time and a baby of not yet 1 year old !! So, either being homeless with my baby, trying to survive by begging or working in bars with a certain reputation, or follow his Master's Voice. I obeyed. It took me 10/15 years to get over this trauma. And the bastard knew a doctor who would gladly fill in the necessary papers that I was too mentally depressed to have a 2nd baby.... So it was fixed very rapidly. Of course this is totally the contrary of NOT being able to get an abortion when you need one. But just to illustrate that NONE of us women take that decision so easily. AND that we have a serious mental stress afterwards. And this is always the case.
What we need instead of all these regulations and exceptions, is that girls / teens and women who had an abortion is to provide them with the necessary support, either by experienced women who can listen to you and advise you, or therapists.

Nicole H
Nicole Heindryckx7 months ago

Really ?? It is unbelievable that a nation like the U.S.A. is having so much troubles and make more and more troubles about abortion. Although I'am a Christian, I can not help laughing inside when I hear the POTUS say each time : GOD BLESS YOU, OR GOD BLESS AMERICA. The Government is hiding behind religion to make abortions more and more difficult. Why so many regulations ? Why a waiting period ? I don't understand. Women who have had abortions never were happy afterwards with their experience. But when situations leave her no choice, what can she do ? When a teen is molested by her father, uncle, big brother, etc.. CAN SHE HAVE THE RIGHT to abortion. OF COURSE ! When a mother of 5/6 children is at the very end of her physical and mental possibilities, and she gets pregnant again because the husband either refused to use a condom, or takes it off during the sex, has she the right to obtain ABORTION? OF COURSE ! When my daughter of 17 is raped by her loverboy, does she have the right for abortion ? OF COURSE. When the pregnancy and giving birth to a further child put at risk the life of the women ... OF COURSE !! Shall I continue ? NO !! .../2

Karen H
Karen H7 months ago

To those who think it's the WOMAN'S fault that she's pregnant, consider the responsibility of the sperm donors. There's "stealthing", where a man surreptitiously removes a condom during sex without his partner's knowledge. There are guys who con young women into sex with "If you really love me, you'll have sex", yet when she finds out she's pregnant, he's long gone. There are rapists who want to control and humiliate women. I'm sick and tired of lawmakers (like Marco Rubio) saying, "No abortion, even in the event of rape", yet they don't do a damn thing about the rape culture. I'm keeping track, and their action (or inaction) will affect my vote.

pam w
pam w7 months ago

This regulation is NOT the ''right of every woman, " rita! It's nothing more than a blatant attempt to shut down women's freedom of choice! You have NO RIGHT to cram your religious beliefs into my life!

Deborah W
Deborah W7 months ago

AS IT SHOULD BE. A free-choice decision not to be made lightly AFTER the fact. Many unplanned casual hook-up results, captive victims sold for-profit by those in control, unexpected consequences of actions experienced by "escorts", etc. Too easy an out ... without proper educating of options to prepare them for a possible next time. DEFINITELY A MISSING PIECE, no matter the empty rhetoric being spewn.

Leo C
Leo C7 months ago

Thank you for sharing!