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Texas Lawmakers Further Restrict Access to Legal Abortion Care for Minors, Cancer Screenings

Andrea Grimes

The Texas legislature approved two measures on Friday that will make it harder for some of the most marginalized Texans to access cancer treatment and legal abortion care.

The Texas legislature approved two measures on Friday that will make it harder for some of the most marginalized Texans to access cancer treatment and legal abortion care.

In anti-abortion lawmakers’ continuing crusade against Planned Parenthood, the legislature gave final approval to a budget plan that includes a provision preventing the organization from providing screenings and treatment to thousands of uninsured and low-income Texans who participate in the state’s Breast and Cervical Cancer Screenings program.

Planned Parenthood Texas Votes’ executive director Yvonne Gutierrez called Planned Parenthood’s ouster from the program “careless politicking” by the senate’s top budget writer, Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound).

“Texas has one of the highest cervical cancer rates in the nation,” said Gutierrez in a statement released Friday afternoon. “Women’s health and women’s lives should not be treated like a game of political football.”

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The legislative director of anti-choice lobby group Texas Right to Life, John Seago, tweeted that the biennial budget “reflects many of Tx’s #ProLife values.”

Anti-choice lawmakers, including several house Democrats, followed up the cancer screenings vote with final approval of HB 3994, a bill that rewrites an existing judicial bypass law to make it more difficult for Texans younger than 18 to make a decision to end an unplanned pregnancy if they can’t—or can’t safely—get their parents’ consent for an abortion. The bill also requires abortion providers to demand government identification from their patients to prove that they are older than 18, and to report it to the state health department if they decide to provide care to a patient without identification.

As Rewire previously reported on HB 3994:

The new restrictions would raise the burden of proof that abused, abandoned, and neglected minors must meet when taking their case to a judge, and would give judges five business days, rather than two business days, to rule on a minor’s judicial bypass application. This delay could extend the process of judicial bypass by more than a week and push some minors past the threshold when legal abortion care is allowed in the state.

After five days with no ruling, the new law considers the bypass to have been automatically denied, rather than automatically granted as under current statute. And new venue restrictions under the law would also bar most teens from filing for a bypass outside their home county, or outside the county where their doctor is located, putting rural teens at risk of being recognized and harassed at their local courthouse.

Anti-choice supporters of HB 3994, such as Texas Right to Life lobbyist Emily Horne, say that it will ensure that parents are involved in their children’s decisions about unplanned pregnancy.

But according to Jane’s Due Process, an organization that assists minors whose parents are unable to provide the legal consent required for abortion care, or who are so abusive that their children might be in danger if they were to discover their unplanned pregnancies, HB 3994 places even more hurdles in front of the 200 or so Texas children and teens who go through the judicial bypass process every year in an attempt to plan their own futures in desperate circumstances.

Both the biennial budget and the judicial bypass restrictions are headed to Gov. Abbott’s desk for his signature.

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