Pro-life leaders from across Texas, including representatives of the Texas Catholic Conference, joined Governor Greg Abbott on July 8, for the ceremonial signing into law of House Bill 3994. The new law tightens the legal process by which juveniles can get an abortion without parental notification or permission if they can convince a district court judge that doing so causes them harm.
Critics of the previous system—known as a “judicial bypass”—argued that it was effectively a “rubber stamp” to allow almost any teen to have an abortion without parental knowledge.
“This is a tremendous step forward in supporting parents’ rights for raising their children, particularly in circumstances that are morally and psychologically critical to a child and a family,” said Jeffery Patterson, executive director of the Texas Catholic Conference.
Until now, minors could file applications for judicial bypass in any Texas district court, regardless of jurisdiction. This resulted in judge shopping — where abortionists could guide children to seek bypasses from courts in a handful of Texas counties. Now minors will be required to apply for a judicial bypass with courts in their home county, or, if the minor resides in a county that has a population under 10,000, in either an adjacent county or the county where the abortion is to be performed.
The new law also tightens the burden of proof to demonstrate why a judicial bypass is necessary. Previously, minors could obtain an abortion without parental consent by proving they considered themselves mature enough and "sufficiently well-informed," to make the decision, or that notifying parents could lead to physical, sexual or emotional abuse. In those instances, the new law requires minors to demonstrate that seeking parental consent may result in abuse, and reaffirms that providers are required to notify the state’s Department of Family And Protective Services if abuse is suspected.
In addition, the new law extends the time in which judges can rule on a judicial bypass case from two business days to five. The extension is meant to give judges more time and clarity to consider these abortion cases.
In signing the bill, Governor Abbott underscored his ongoing commitment to pro-life policies in the Lone Star State.
“I am proud to have signed HB 3994 into law, and as Governor, I will continue to ensure the State of Texas leads the way in protecting our most vulnerable – the unborn,” Abbott stated.