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Texas House Panel Hears Testimony on Proposed Changes to Judicial Bypass for Minors Seeking Abortion

Texas House Panel Hears Testimony on Proposed Changes to Judicial Bypass for Minors Seeking Abortion

April 16, 2015 — A Texas House committee on Tuesday heard testimony on a measure (HB 723) that would tighten a state law that allows pregnant minors to obtain a court's permission to have an abortion instead of obtaining parental consent for the procedure, AP/KVIA reports (AP/KVIA, 4/15).

Background

Currently, minors can apply for a judicial bypass in any Texas county. The proceedings remain confidential to protect minors. The state does not track how many cases there are annually or which judges have ruled on the cases (Women's Health Policy Report, 3/31).

According to the Texas Observer, minors seeking judicial bypass must prove at least one of three reasons: that they are well-informed and mature enough to obtain an abortion without parental notification; that it is not in their best interests to notify their parents of the procedure; or that notifying their parents would cause emotional, physical or sexual abuse.

Hearing Details

The measure, proposed by state Rep. Phil King (R), would require that minors seeking judicial bypass prove all three grounds for obtaining the bypass, instead of just one (Garcia-Ditta, Texas Observer, 4/14).

During testimony on the bill, King called the current judicial bypass system in the state "far from a best practice" (AP/KVIA, 4/15).

However, Heather Busby, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Texas, said under the proposed changes the state would "have one of the most, if not the most, restrictive judicial bypass laws in the country." She added, "It's essentially a ban on abortion for anyone under the age of 18 unable to involve a parent."

Tina Hester, executive director of Jane's Due Process, added that most minors in the state who seek abortions do involve a parent in their decision. "Minors who seek a judicial bypass don't do it for frivolous reasons," she said, adding that measures seeking to change the process aim to "dismantle" a "safety net."

Other Judicial Bypass Bills Await Hearings

According to the Observer, two additional bills aimed at making the judicial bypass process stricter have yet to be scheduled for hearings (Texas Observer, 4/14).

One of the measures (HB 2531) would require the state to track data on the number of judicial bypasses granted, appealed or denied in each county. Meanwhile, the second measure (HB 3994) would require minors to apply for bypass in their county of residence, an adjacent county if their home county has fewer than 10,000 residents or in the county in which they plan to have the procedure (Women's Health Policy Report, 3/31).