The Texas House of Representatives passed a package of abortion restrictions on Thursday that would make the process for a minor to obtain a “judicial bypass,” or an abortion without their parents’ permission, significantly more arduous. The bill also includes an unprecedented measure requiring all patients seeking to access the procedure to show government-issued identification.
The Republican-controlled legislative body advanced the bill after shooting down a number of amendments from House Democrats that would have lessened the impact of the legislation. It now heads to the state Senate, where Republicans also hold a majority.
Texas currently allows a minor to seek a judicial bypass for an abortion if involving parents is impossible or if seeking notarized consent from at least one parent would put the minor in danger. Minors who have been the victims of abuse or assault, and those who are living in foster homes, often find it necessary to obtain judicial bypasses to obtain abortions.
The bill, sponsored by Republican state Rep. Geanie Morrison, increases the burden of proof on the minor to demonstrate that they could not safely obtain parental consent for the procedure from a “preponderance of evidence” to “clear and convincing” standard. It also requires the minor to undergo a mental health evaluation and dictates that the minor must apply for the bypass in the county in which they reside. Bypasses currently can be requested in any Texas county.
In a move that appears to be unique to Texas, the bill would require all patients seeking the procedure to present government-issued identification to prove they are not a minor.
Morrison said the legislation is intended to "improve protection of the minor girl and ensure that parental rights are protected," according to the Associated Press. The bill was one of the top priorities of anti-abortion groups in the state such as Texas Right to Life, which considers the current judicial bypass system "loophole-ridden."
Thirty-eight states require some sort of parental involvement before a minor may obtain an abortion, but some of those states only require parental notification, rather than notarized parental consent, as Texas does. Texas makes an exception for cases involving minors with a medical emergency, but no exceptions for victims of rape or incest. Thirteen of those states require judges to use the “clear and convincing evidence” standard that the minor is mature enough to make the decision and that the abortion is in their best interest, which is the standard the Texas GOP legislators are attempting to move towards.
Reproductive rights groups said the package of restrictions in Texas would disproportionately affect lower-income Texans who may not have an acceptable form of identification. Texas' law requiring government-issued photo identification to vote has been a target for voting rights litigation and is expected to ultimately end up before the Supreme Court.
“The anti-choice zealots in the Texas Legislature are once again prioritizing restrictions on abortion access over policies that improve the everyday life of Texans,” Heather Busby, the executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Texas, said in a statement ahead of the vote. “This time, the Legislature is playing politics with abused and neglected teenagers’ lives.”
In January, a federal appeals court heard a challenge to Texas' law requiring clinics providing abortions to meet the standard of ambulatory surgical centers, which has the potential to close a slew of clinics in the state.