News Law and Policy

Texas GOP Passes ID Requirement for Abortion Care

Andrea Grimes

The Texas house voted to pass a bill requiring physicians who provide abortion care to assume that every one of their patients is younger than 18 unless those patients can present "valid government record of identification" showing otherwise.

The judicial bypass process—by which some orphaned, abandoned, or abused teens can obtain legal permission for abortion care from a judge, instead of attempting to obtain consent from a deceased, absent, or abusive parent—was one of the first ways Texas anti-choice lawmakers attempted to restrict abortion access more than 15 years ago.

The state’s conservative leadership has successfully implemented one of the most restrictive packages of anti-choice laws in the United States, passed in 2013 despite state Sen. Wendy Davis’ 13-hour filibuster. That omnibus anti-choice bill shuttered dozens of legal abortion facilities from the Red River to the Rio Grande, and anti-choice lawmakers are again turning their attention to making it harder—some critics say close to impossible—for the state’s most vulnerable teens to end their pregnancies.

After a three-hour debate late Wednesday evening, the GOP-majority Texas House of Representatives voted to pass HB 3994, which requires physicians who provide abortion care to assume that every one of their patients is younger than 18 unless those patients can present “valid government record of identification” showing otherwise. Thursday morning, the House gave its final approval to the measure and sent the bill to the Texas Senate.

The originally filed version of HB 3994, sponsored by state Rep. Geanie Morrison (R-Victoria), was less restrictive than the version that eventually passed Wednesday night. The engrossed version includes a nine-page amendment that, in essence, substitutes a more stringent bill in place of Morrison’s original.

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That amendment, proposed by Rep. Matt Krause (R-Fort Worth), would bring the judicial bypass law in line with a bill he had proposed in March, but had been unable to get passed out of committee hearing.

As passed, HB 3994:

  • limits the location and type of court in which a minor can seek an abortion
  • forces the minor to reveal her home address and telephone number to a judge
  • prevents the minor from removing her application for a judicial bypass after she has filed it with the court
  • mandates that a physician who provides abortion care to a minor who says they have been sexually assaulted or abused report that sexual assault, and the identity of the suspected abuser, to law enforcement regardless of whether the minor wants to report their assault or feels it is safe to do so
  • mandates that a judge who hears a judicial bypass case in which a minor says they are being abused must report that abuse to law enforcement, along with the identity of the suspected abuser, regardless of whether the minor wants to report their abuse or feels it is safe to do so
  • gives a judge five business days, rather than two days, before they must rule on the judicial bypass application
  • presumes that if a judge does not rule on the judicial bypass, that permission for the minor’s abortion is denied

Current judicial bypass law allows a minor to obtain legal abortion care if a judge fails to rule on their bypass application, and allows minors who live in small or rural counties to maintain some confidentiality by avoiding filing petitions in their home counties, where they might be recognized at the courthouse.

But a 2014 survey conducted by Jane’s Due Process, a nonprofit organization that helps teens navigate the judicial bypass process, found that the vast majority of Texas courts either willfully do not, or ignorantly cannot, provide factually correct information to minors about the bypass procedure. According to that survey:

A mere 26% of counties provided the caller with factually correct information. Even more frightening, 37% of counties denied entirely their office’s involvement with judicial bypass filings, and a vast 81% of counties had no immediate knowledge of the existence of judicial bypass. A stunning 43% of counties provided the caller with blatant misinformation. Several district clerks went a step further and provided the caller with personal, religious advice, referencing “God’s plan” for the minor. One clerk announced she was an “advocate for Crisis Pregnancy Centers” and wanted to meet with the minor in person after work. Other clerks simply told the caller to “pick up the phone and call a lawyer” with one abruptly hanging up the phone.

Texas Democrats—and one Republican, Houston Rep. Sarah Davis—fought the new restrictions at length on Wednesday, proposing more than a dozen amendments that would have reduced HB 3994’s impact on especially vulnerable teenagers, or allowed most Texans to obtain abortion care without presenting government identification.

Rep. Donna Howard (D-Austin) proposed an amendment that would have included an exception to the new bypass rules for a minor who is a survivor of rape or incest. Throughout the debate on this, Republicans in the chamber appeared to talk and joke loudly, prompting Democrats to call for order in the chamber.

“I’ve never seen the chamber be so disrespectful when we’re talking about cases of rape and incest,” said Rep. Celia Israel (D-Austin).

Rep. Mary Gonzalez (D-El Paso) proposed an amendment that would have loosened the bill’s mandatory identification restrictions, and said she was concerned about provisions in the bill that would make it easier for anti-choice extremists to find out the identities of judges who grant bypasses.

“We are putting judges’ physical lives in danger,” Gonzalez said.

Morrison refused to accept any of the Democrats’ amendments. At one point she appeared to be missing from the floor debate, but in the brief period during which she answered questions about the bill, she appeared unsure about its content, saying only that “the bill is very clear on what it says.”

“Clear as mud,” retorted Dallas Democrat Rep. Rafael Anchia.

Morrison later told Rep. César Blanco (D-El Paso) that she couldn’t “speculate” about what a judicial bypass case might look like and that she had no knowledge of the average age of minors who need judicial bypasses.

“You have no knowledge, but you’re filing the bill?” Blanco asked Morrison.

“That is correct,” Morrison replied.

The house voted on the bill around 11 p.m. Wednesday night, after Republicans threatened to add even more onerous amendments if Democrats continued to challenge HB 3994.

Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer (D-San Antonio), who has a reputation for delaying or derailing bills with his exhaustive knowledge of parliamentary procedures, withdrew a point of order he’d called just before 11 p.m. to enable the vote, and later told reporters that his party wanted to avoid the addition of “very divisive” amendments to the bill.

The Texas Senate—widely considered to be a chamber more hostile to legal abortion than the house—has just a couple of weeks to pass HB 3994 before the end of Texas’ regular legislative session June 1.

News Law and Policy

North Carolina, Texas Want ‘Discriminatory’ Voter ID Laws Reinstated

Imani Gandy

Republicans in state legislatures that have passed rigid voter ID laws have claimed that such laws are necessary to prevent in-person voter fraud. GOP-led investigations, however, have not turned up any evidence of voter fraud.

Officials in North Carolina and Texas want the Supreme Court to reinstate voter ID laws after two federal appeals courts ruled they should not take effect, setting the stage for a potential Roberts Court fight over voting rights during a presidential election.

North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory (R) on Monday said in a statement that the state had asked the U.S. Supreme Court to stay last month’s Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that struck down the voter ID requirement. The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals released that decision in July, holding that the Republican-majority legislature had enacted the voter ID provision of HB 589 with a discriminatory intent to burden Black voters, and that it violated the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

McCrory said the Fourth Circuit’s ruling striking down that state’s voter ID law would create confusion during the upcoming November election.

“Allowing the Fourth Circuit’s ruling to stand creates confusion among voters and poll workers and it disregards our successful rollout of Voter ID in the 2016 primary elections,” McCrory said in a statement.

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“The Fourth Circuit’s ruling is just plain wrong and we cannot allow it to stand. We are confident that the Supreme Court will uphold our state’s law and reverse the Fourth Circuit,” he continued.

North Carolina is now represented by Paul Clement, who successfully argued Shelby County v. Holder, the 2013 case that gutted the Voting Rights Act. In its emergency filing, the state asked the Supreme Court to stay the Fourth Circuit’s ruling, arguing that the 2013 GOP-backed elections law “was the product not of racial animus, but of simply policy disagreements between two political parties about what voting measures are best for North Carolina,” according to SCOTUSblog.

North Carolina will petition the Supreme Court for a writ of certiorari in the upcoming term. In the meantime, the state awaits the Supreme Court’s ruling on its emergency request for a stay.

A spokesperson for Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said on Tuesday that Texas would appeal the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals’ ruling that Texas’ voter ID law, SB 14, disproportionately burdened Black and Latino voters in violation of the Voting Rights Act, according to the Dallas Morning News.

Writing for the Fifth Circuit majority, Judge Catharina Haynes wrote, “[t]he record shows that drafters and proponents of SB 14 were aware of the likely disproportionate effect of the law on minorities, and that they nonetheless passed the bill without adopting a number of proposed ameliorative measures that might have lessened this impact.”

“The primary concern of this court and the district court should be to ensure that SB 14’s discriminatory effect is ameliorated … in time for the November 2016 election,” Haynes continued.

In response to the Fifth Circuit’s ruling, U.S. District Court Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos approved a plan that would allow voters without the requisite photo identification to vote in Texas in the November election, absent the Roberts Court stepping in.

Under Ramos’ order, people can vote if they sign a declaration of citizenship and present proof of residence in Texas, such as a paycheck stub, bank statement, or utility bill, according to the Texas Tribune.

Paxton’s spokesperson would not specify whether the state would file an emergency appeal in advance of its petition for writ of certiorari. In order to reinstate the voter ID law, Texas would need to file an emergency appeal and ask the Supreme Court to stay the case, as officials in North Carolina have done.

Republicans in state legislatures that have passed rigid voter ID laws have claimed that such laws are necessary to prevent in-person voter fraud. GOP-led investigations, however, have not turned up any evidence of voter fraud. A study conducted by Loyola Law School professor Justin Levitt found a mere 31 credible incidents of voter impersonation out of more than 1 billion votes that were cast nationwide from 2000 through 2014.

News Family Planning

Judge Thwarts Ohio GOP’s Attack on Planned Parenthood Funding

Michelle D. Anderson

“This law would have been especially burdensome to communities of color and people with low income who already often have the least access to care—this law would have made a bad situation worse,” said Iris E. Harvey, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio.

An effort to defund Ohio Planned Parenthood affiliates by Gov. John Kasich (R) and the Republican-held legislature has come to an end.

Judge Michael R. Barrett of the U.S. District Court of the Southern District of Ohio on Friday ruled in Planned Parenthood’s favor, granting a permanent injunction on an anti-choice state law.

The court ruling will keep Richard Hodges, the Ohio Department of Health director, from enforcing HB 294.

The 2015 law, sponsored by Rep. Bill Patmon (D-Cleveland) and Rep. Margaret Conditt (R-Butler County), would have redirected $1.3 million in state and federal taxpayer funds from Planned Parenthood’s 28 clinics in Ohio.

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The law would have required the state department to keep federal funds and materials that the health department receives from being distributed to entities that perform or promote non-therapeutic abortions, or maintain affiliation with any entity that does.

Funding that would’ve been cut off from the state health department went to the Violence Against Women and Breast and Cervical Cancer Mortality Prevention acts, the Infertility Prevention Project, Minority HIV/AIDS and Infant Mortality Reduction initiatives, and the Personal Responsibility Education Program.

Planned Parenthood in a lawsuit argued that the Republican legislation violated the First Amendment and the Due Process Clause and Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment.

Barrett had temporarily blocked the law after Planned Parenthood affiliates filed the lawsuit and requested a preliminary injunction. The judge had issued an opinion contending that some legislators passed the law to make it difficult for people to access abortion care, as Rewire reported.

Iris E. Harvey, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio, praised the judge’s temporary order.

“This law would have been especially burdensome to communities of color and people with low income who already often have the least access to care—this law would have made a bad situation worse,” Harvey said in a statement.

Kellie Copeland, NARAL Pro Choice Ohio’s executive director, said in a statement that the Ohio legislature passed the anti-choice measure in an effort to appeal to conservative voters in early primary states during Kasich’s presidential campaign.

Copeland said that while the legislation made no effort to reduce the number of abortions performed, “it actively blocked critical health care for low-income women and families.”

Planned Parenthood said those services included 70,000 free STD screenings, thousands of HIV tests for at-risk community residents, and the largest infant mortality prevention program in the state.

In the 23-page court order and opinion, Barrett, an appointee of President George W. Bush, acknowledged that the law would have deterred “patients from seeking these potentially life-saving services.”

Planned Parenthood noted that the recent ruling in Ohio makes it among the ten states where courts have blocked anti-choice laws following June’s landmark Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt U.S. Supreme Court ruling.

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