Texas State House of Representatives passes reforms to minors´ secret abortion process

Wednesday, May 13, with the deadline to pass House bills looming, the Texas House of Representatives tentatively passed House Bill 3994 on a 98-47 vote.

The bill reforms the process by which minors seek permission from a judge to undergo secret abortions without parental involvement.  HB 3994, sponsored by Representative Geanie Morrison (R-Victoria), addresses these loopholes to strengthen parental rights and to protect pregnant teens.

Facing and defeating more than a dozen weakening amendments by House Democrats, HB 3994 was successfully amended by Representatives Matt Krause (R-Fort Worth) and Stephanie Klick (R-North Richland Hills) to ensure the strongest language was included to protect pregnant minors.

In Texas, girls under the age of 18 are required to obtain parental consent before undergoing an abortion, but pregnant teens can petition a judge for permission for the abortion, circumventing a parent or guardian.  The Parental Consent Law that includes the judicial bypass has been repeatedly exploited by the abortion industry. 

HB 3994 closes a provision that allows attorneys to judge-shop for a favorable ruling, called “forum-shopping.”  The judicial bypass process currently allows minors’ attorneys (often furnished by the abortion center seeking to profit from the abortions) to manipulate the court process in order to obtain an abortion-favorable ruling.  Forum-shopping is strictly prohibited in any other type of court proceeding.

HB 3994 also stipulates that, unless a minor lives in a county with fewer than 10,000 residents or is not a Texas resident, she must file the petition at a court within her own county of residence.  Limiting the court venue helps reduce coerced abortions of sexually assaulted minors whose predators take pregnant teens across the state for a secret abortion.

The current bypass system deviates from every other judicial process in the state of Texas by automatically granting the petition for a secret abortion if the judge does not rule on the request within the allotted time period.  HB 3994 brings the judicial bypass loophole into conformity with all other judicial processes in Texas by reversing this provision, denying the bypass request if the judge does not rule on the bypass petition within five days.

Finally, HB 3994 protects pregnant minors by mandating that both judges and abortionists report any suspected physical or sexual abuse to authorities and the Department of Family and Protective Services immediately.  Law enforcement officials are then required by HB 3994 to investigate suspected abuse and write a report within 24 hours.

The passage of HB 3994 as amended marks the first Pro-Life bill passed by the House of Representatives during this 84th Session of the Texas Legislature.  HB 3994 is a tremendous victory in parental rights, strengthening Texas families, and protecting teens from sexual predators.

Texas Right to Life applauds this Pro-Life bill and the legislators who were eager to work to ensure that HB 3994 would pass with the strongest language possible.