May 14, 2015 — The Texas House on Wednesday in a 98-47 vote gave preliminary approval to a measure (HB 3994) 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, the Texas Tribune reports.
According to the Tribune, the bill requires final approval from the state House before it can advance to the state Senate for consideration (Ura, Texas Tribune, 5/13).
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.
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.
The proposed measure would require minors to apply for bypass in their county of residence, an adjacent county if their home has fewer than 10,000 residents or in the county in which they plan to have the procedure (Women's Health Policy Report, 4/16). 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. The bill would also publicize the names of judges who decide on judicial bypass cases.
Debate on the Measure
During about four hours of debate on the measure, state Rep. Geanie Morrison (R), who proposed the bill, said it is intended "to improve the protection of the minor girl and ensure that parental rights are protected."
Meanwhile, abortion-rights supporters in the state House voiced opposition to the bill, with some lawmakers calling several points of order against the measure in an effort to delay or kill the chances of the bill's passage. Other state lawmakers who support abortion rights also offered various amendments to try to weaken the measure, but none of the amendments were adopted.
Among the proposed amendments were measures to remove the "abortion ID" requirement or broaden the types of ID that would be accepted under the proposed rule. State Rep. Eddie Rodriguez (D), who offered one such amendment, asked whether the requirement was meant to be "a defacto ban on abortion for people who don't have IDs."
Separately, state Rep. Rafael Anchia (D) asked Morrison why student or college IDs would not be accepted under the proposed requirements or whether she thought that victims of human trafficking would have the necessary identification to comply with the potential rule. Morrison replied that such victims "should be going to a police department" to receive help.
Meanwhile, state Rep. Roland Gutierrez (D) spoke in support of a proposed amendment that would have retained the law's current burden-of-proof standards. He said he was concerned that altering the "long-standing" burden of proof could spur changes in other laws.
An amendment offered by state Rep. Mary González (D) would have removed the measures' judicial reporting requirements, which she said would "put a target on the backs of judges who rule on these cases." González also proposed an amendment that would have changed the filing location requirement to include population limits of 50,000.
Further, some state lawmakers who support abortion rights also offered amendments that would have broadened the parental involvement law to allow for family members other than parents to give consent, to define minors as individuals who are younger than age 17 and to allow for exceptions for minors who are survivors of rape or incest (Texas Tribune, 5/13).