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Texas Judicial Bypass Bill Could Affect Undocumented Immigrants' Access to Abortion

Texas Judicial Bypass Bill Could Affect Undocumented Immigrants' Access to Abortion

May 19, 2015 — A Texas bill (HB 3994) that would tighten the process by which minors obtain judicial bypass to have an abortion also would restrict undocumented immigrant women's access to abortion in the state, according to reproductive health advocates, KGBT News reports (Ortiz, KGBT News, 5/15).

The state Senate Health and Human Services Committee is scheduled to vote on the bill on Tuesday. According to the Texas Tribune, the measure is likely to be sent to the full chamber for consideration (Ura, Texas Tribune, 5/18).

Background

Currently, minors can apply for a judicial bypass in any Texas county. Minors seeking judicial bypass must prove at least one of three conditions: 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.

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. In addition, the bill would require physicians to assume pregnant women are minors until they show a "valid government record of identification" showing they are not. Further, the bill would increase the burden of proof that minors face when claiming that obtaining parental consent for abortion would lead to emotional, physical or sexual abuse (Women's Health Policy Report, 5/14).

In addition, according to the Tribune, the bill was amended so that a judge is required to rule on a minor's request within five days, and a request is considered denied if the judge does not issue a ruling in that time frame. By contrast, judges currently are required to rule on such petitions within two days, at which time the request is considered approved absent a judge's ruling.

Meanwhile, the bill also was amended so that the names of judges who decide judicial bypass cases will no longer be made public (Texas Tribune, 5/18).

Concerns for Undocumented Immigrants

Dinorah Martinez, field coordinator from the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, said the ID requirement could negatively affect undocumented immigrant women's access to abortion, particularly in the Rio Grande Valley, which only has one clinic, the Whole Women's Health Clinic in McAllen, Texas. "Many of our women do not have immigration documents or documents from their home country or any type of identification," she said.

Further, Martinez noted that while there are clinics elsewhere, women would have to travel through border control checkpoints that bar many undocumented immigrants from traveling farther north (KGBT News, 5/15).

According to the Tribune, lawmakers who support abortion rights have also voiced concerns about the ID provision. In response to those concerns, state Sen. Charles Perry (R), who is sponsoring the bill in the state Senate, said he would propose alternative language on the ID requirement (Texas Tribune, 5/18).