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118 Yale Law Journal 1356 (2009)


Public discourse over abortion overwhelmingly focuses on whether the Supreme Court will overrule Roe v. Wade and states will again ban abortion. But at least since 1992, when the Court in Planned Parenthood v. Casey reaffirmed Roe's "central holding," certain moderate- sounding abortion restrictions - sometimes framed as reasonable compromise regulations - have posed a greater threat to women's reproductive health and liberty. This Essay examines one increasingly popular form of restriction: laws that regulate providers of abortion services in the name of advancing women's health, without actual health justification. Little-noted efforts to enact such restrictions in Indiana, during the same period South Dakota made headlines enacting criminal abortion bans in 2006 and 2008, illustrate the potential impact of what opponents have called "TRAP laws," for targeted regulation of abortion providers. The burdens that result from regulatory interference with the availability of services fall disproportionately on the most vulnerable women: those unable to bear increased costs, travel longer distances, or otherwise overcome government-created barriers to legal health services. The Indiana experience also points to the importance and effectiveness of "common-ground" alternative approaches to reducing the number of abortions. Through programs that prevent unintended pregnancy and promote healthy childbearing, the government can more effectively reduce abortions while respecting our nation's fundamental liberties and values.