Judicial bypass law changing in Texas

HB 3994 impacts minors seeking abortions

By Pilar Arias - Reporter

SAN ANTONIO - Nearly 43 years after the Roe v. Wade decision the Texas Legislature is still changing abortion law.

In 2016 the U.S. Supreme Court will hear a case regarding the state's House Bill 2. Often referred to as the abortion clinic restriction law, it reduced the number of clinics in Texas by half since 2013.

However, another law taking effect Jan. 1 changes a process known as judicial bypass.

Girls 17 and younger in Texas can only get an abortion if:

  • ​Their physician notifies their parent(s)/legal guardian 48 hours in advance.
  • Their physician determines a medical emergency exists.
  • The patient has a court order allowing the procedure.

The last option is judicial bypass and nonprofit organization Jane's Due Process helps pregnant teens obtain court orders to allow abortions.

"A lot of the clients we serve come from broken homes," Jane's Due Process Executive Director Tina Hester said. "To ask permission from an abusive parent is not safe for the girl so we're the safety net for those girls."

Hester said about 10 percent of pregnant minor girls in Texas choose abortion via judicial bypass.

Beginning 2016, the law is changing due to House Bill 3994. A minor girl will only be able to get an abortion without parental consent if she has a court order from the county she lives in. Those living in a county with fewer than 10,000 people may seek permission from a neighboring county.

"We do think it's both good policy and that it will probably not be challenged," Texas Alliance for Life Executive Director Joe Pojman said. He believes HB 3994 closes loopholes in the current judicial bypass law, including determining a patient's age.

The new law also increases the time judges have to make decisions for minor girls from two to five business days. It also adds a penalty of up to $10,000 for any physician who knowingly performs an abortion without parental consent.

Those are changes Hester doesn't support.

"They had done everything else they could to limit abortion access and this time they went after the abused and neglected teens," Hester said. She told the Defenders there are less than 20 abortion clinics in Texas. Three of those clinics are located in San Antonio.

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