Underage Texas women seeking abortions without their parents' consent will face a tougher set of legal hurdles in the new year.
State law already requires minors — those under age 18 — to get sign-off from at least one parent before receiving an abortion, unless doing so could put the young woman in danger of physical, sexual or emotional abuse. In those cases, a judge can be asked to approve the procedure.
New legislation that takes effect Friday tightens the rules for seeking such “judicial bypass,” including heightening reporting requirements and adding a new civil penalty of up to $10,000 for anyone found to “intentionally, knowingly, recklessly or with gross negligence” violate the law.
Here's a look at five other ways the rules are changing, and what they mean for Texas minors.
1. The new judicial bypass rules lengthen the window of time judges have to rule on such cases from two days to five days.
2. Previously, a bypass request was considered approved if a judge didn't rule on it. Now, if a judge doesn't rule, the minor’s request is considered automatically denied. That “automatic denial” language was added by the Texas Supreme Court on Tuesday when it reconciled court rules with the new legislation — despite the fact that the language had been stripped from the bill during the legislative session.
3. The new rules require minors to file applications for judicial bypass in their home counties; previously, they could do so in any Texas county. If a minor lives in a county that has a population under 10,000, she can file in an adjacent county or in the county where she hopes to obtain the procedure.
4. Under the old rules, minors could get an abortion without parental consent if they proved that notifying their parents would not be in their best interest, or that it could lead to physical, sexual or emotional abuse. The new rules nix the abuse provision, but they put a greater burden of proof on minors to show that seeking consent from a parent is not in their best interest. They must now provide “clear and convincing evidence” — a legal standard that’s more rigorous to meet than the “preponderance of the evidence” standard previously used in judicial bypass cases.
5. Finally, the new rules require pregnant minors to appear in court in person for a hearing on their judicial bypass request. Previously, at a judge's discretion, minors could appear via video conferencing.