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Texas Bills Target Judicial Bypass Under Parental Involvement Law

March 31, 2015 — Conservative lawmakers in Texas have filed several bills seeking to increase publicly available information and requirements related to the judicial bypass process under the state's parental involvement requirements, the Dallas Morning News reports.

According to the Morning News, the bills have been submitted to a House committee but hearings have not been scheduled.

Background

Currently, minors can apply for a bypass in any Texas county.

According to the Morning News, 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.

Legislation Details

One bill (HB 1942), proposed by state Rep. Ron Simmons (R), would make public the names of judges who rule in favor of a bypass. Another bill (HB 2531), proposed by state Rep. Matt Krause (R), would track data on the number of judicial bypasses granted, appealed or denied in each county.

In addition, a third bill (HB 3994), proposed by state Rep. Geanie Morrison (R), would place restrictions on where a minor is able to apply for a bypass. Under Morrison's bill, minors would only be able to apply for an exemption in their county of residence, an adjacent county if their home county has fewer than 10,000 residents or the county where they plan to have the abortion.

Krause also proposed another, similar measure that would restrict a minor from applying anywhere besides her home county.

Comments

Ben Lancaster, Simmons' chief of staff, said HB 1942 seeks to hold judges accountable to the public. "Nobody knows what decisions [judges] make ... because the decisions aren't public," he said.

Separately, Elizabeth Nash, a state policy analyst at the Guttmacher Institute, said making such information public "raises a lot of red flags when you start asking for very specific information about the judge or the county or the type of court." She added, "That could potentially be used against [judges] and could be a way to encourage judges not to grant these petitions."

Nash noted that if the bill is passed, Texas would be the first state to make judges' names public in such a manner (Martin, Dallas Morning News, 3/27).