Austin, Texas, Jan 27, 2020 / 06:18 pm (CNA).- A study of statistics from Texas suggests that since 2016, judges in the state were less likely to grant permission to minors to procure abortion without their parents’ consent than in previous years.
Thirty-seven states, including Texas, require minors to obtain parental consent before procuring an abortion. In those states, minors can also seek the approval of a judge, in what is known as a “judicial bypass.”
From 2000 to 2015, Texas’ laws mandated that a minor seeking an abortion without parental consent must demonstrate to a judge that they were mature and well-informed, that notifying a parent would not be in their best interest, and that notifying a parent might lead to physical, sexual or emotional abuse.
According to a study published this month in the American Journal of Public Health, between 2001 and 2015 the number of times a judge in Texas denied a minor an abortion ranged from zero to six per year, which in turn represented between 0% and 6.2% of the total requests judges received that year. The rate of denial was 2.8% in 2015.
In 2016, the year that Texas implemented a law changing regulations for minors requesting permission for abortions from judges, the number of denials rose to 23, which represented about 10.3% of the total requests that judges received that year. The number of denials dipped to 10 in 2017 (3.1%) and then rose slightly to 12 in 2018 (5.1%).
The data for 2016-18 came from the Texas Office of Court Administration, while that from 2001-15 were based on reports from Jane’s Due Process, a group that provides legal representation to minors seeking to procure abortion without their parents’ consent.
Reuters reported that one of the changes implemented in 2016 was the removal of the criterion related to physical, sexual, or emotional abuse if the minor tells the parent they are having an abortion. Another change implemented after 2016 required girls to file their petitions in the county they live in, and to include their name, address, and date of birth, Reuters reported.
The study’s lead author, Amanda Stevenson, said that the purpose of the judicial bypass process “is to protect minors from a veto of their abortion decision. We find sometimes the process doesn’t protect them from being vetoed. It’s just the judge instead of the parent.”
Texas’ requirements regarding judicial consent for minors to obtain an abortion recieved national attention when a 17-year-old from Central America, known as Jane Doe, obtained state permission in September 2017.
The minor had been in federal custody in a Texas shelter operated by the Office of Refugee Resettlement – an agency of the Department of Health and Human Services. The Department of Health and Human Services objected to transporting the minor to abortion appointments.
The government argued that since she is a minor in their custody, it has the right to determine what is in the best interest of the teen, and also stated that it has an interest in not creating incentives for minors to cross international borders in order to obtain abortions.
On Oct. 20, 2017, a three-judge appellate panel ruled that Doe would not be allowed immediately to obtain the abortion. This overruled a Texas district court’s ruling that Doe should be allowed to access an abortion immediately.
However, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the decision five days later, ordering instead that an adult custodian be found for the teenager, which would remove her from federal custody. The teen subsequently procured the abortion.
Other states attempting to pass “parental notification laws,” such as Indiana, have been blocked by the courts.
Indiana law requires any Indiana minor seeking an abortion to provide the courts with written consent from a parent, but the state allows a minor to petition a court for approval to have an abortion without parental consent.
A 2017 law would have allowed judges to notify parents that their daughters are seeking to have an abortion without consent.
In 2017, a federal judge issued a preliminary injunction that prevents judges from notifying parents when minors seek abortions, and the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld that injunction during August 2019 by a vote of 2-1.
Also in 2017, a federal judge struck down an Alabama law requiring more scrutiny for minors who seek an abortion without parental consent, saying that the law violates the minor’s confidentiality by possibly bringing other people from her life into the process.
Efforts are currently underway to remove the longstanding requirement for teens to obtain parental consent before getting an abortion in Massachusetts, a rule that can only be bypassed if the minor is granted permission for the abortion by a state judge. The bill, which state Sen. Harriet Chandler introduced during January 2020, also seeks to establish a state right to an abortion, which would stand even if Roe v. Wade were to be overturned.
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