Jane’s Due Process (JDP), a non-profit that works to ensure legal representation for pregnant minors in Texas, identified six new pieces of legislature that would make it even more difficult for a TX minor to navigate the judicial bypass procedure and obtain a legal and safe abortion:
- “HB 2531 (Krause): Requires a number of onerous changes to the judicial bypass process including forcing teens in rural counties to file locally, endangering their confidentiality. (Sen. Burton is carrying SB 1564, a companion bill to HB 2531.)
- HB 723 (King): Require that a minor prove that she meets all three grounds for a judicial bypass to be granted and that the attorney cannot also serve as the guardian-ad-litem.
- HB 1942 (Simmons): Require all names of judges who approve judicial bypass applications to be made public, as well as the number of applications that they approve.
- HB 3765 (Laubenberg): Require parental consent to be notarized.
- HB 3994 (Morrison): Similar to the Krause bill which publicly identifies courts in which bypasses are granted, even in small rural counties with only a limited number of judges who might hear a case. This bill jeopardizes the safety of judges and courthouse staff.”
In Texas, where there is already a parental consent law on the books, where the document even needs to be notarized, legislators are working to make access to a safe abortion even more difficult for young women.
HB 723 for example, listed above, would only allow minors to bypass parental consent if they proved to be “mature and sufficiently well informed,” proved that notifying her parents is not in her best interest, AND that notifying her parents could lead to physical, emotional or sexual abuse.” Currently a minor only needs to qualify for one of those three categories to be able to have a safe abortion.
New Mexico senators recently rejected forced parental notification bill HB391, after rejecting a late-term abortion bill HB390, that would have required that a pregnant minor’s parent be notified 48 prior to her abortion. We were lucky that our senators voted in the interest of young women’s safety; other states have not been so lucky. An article, “GOP Lawmakers want to make it harder for minors to get an abortion without a parent’s consent” interviewed some of the staff at JDP about the reality of some of the difficult circumstances some young women face at home that make them turn to the judicial bypass process:
“Hays says she represented one pregnant girl who didn’t know her father and whose mother was on the run from police. This drug-addled mother — who knew about the pregnancy but, for obvious reasons, wouldn’t come home to sign consent paperwork –later called Hays to make sure her daughter was okay.
More serious, though, are the cases in which a girl has either already been abused or whose life could be ruined if she reveals the pregnancy. One of the first judicial bypass cases that was appealed all the way up to the Texas Supreme Court involved one 17-year-old “Jane” who testified that she was afraid to tell her alcoholic father about her pregnancy. The father, she claimed, would beat her younger sister for small infractions, like wetting the bed (the beatings left bleeding bruises on her sister’s thighs). The teenager claimed she once witnessed her father grab one of her sisters by the throat and throw her into a closet. He once punched another sister so hard across the face that blood splattered on the nearby wall. “[L]ittle things make him snap,” she testified.
The girl told the court she couldn’t go to her mother, either, who told her “if I was ever pregnant, I might as well not come home. I’d have no place to stay.”
“Abuse comes in a variety of packages,” says Rita Lucido, an attorney who has represented girls in judicial bypass cases in the Houston area for 15 years. “We see kids who have been back-handed across the face for failing to unload the dishwasher one night. … They can’t even imagine what kind of personal hell they’ll go through if a parent learns they’re pregnant.”
Hester with Jane’s Due Process told us about one recent Houston-area case, a pregnant girl who came from an immigrant family of deeply religious Muslims. “She literally feared for her life, that if her parents found out she could very well be beaten or killed.”
Hays recalled one former client whose parents were meth dealers. The girl couldn’t get consent from her parents because she had recently run away, fearing her parents were about to start pimping her out for money, Hays says.”