ID Requirement Removed?

This screen shot shows the changes made to HB 3994 which, in theory remove the requirement that a person obtaining an abortion must show ID:

no id provision

The new language says that if a person cannot secure ID, even after the doctor has provided information on how to obtain one, “and the physician chooses to perform the abortion,” all that has to happen next is that the physician must document that fact. The number of abortions performed without proof of identity will be reported annually to the legislature.

Note that there is no stipulation that this information would be presented in such a way as to protect the identity of doctors or clinics. It is not unreasonable to be concerned that reports would be used as yet another tool for harassing providers.

Abortion regulations generally, and this bill specifically, are full of reporting requirements, shalls, and musts. The innocuous phrase “and the physician chooses to perform the abortion,” in the context of excessive and restrictive regulations designed to catch providers out of compliance, sounds more like a trap than an option.

While one could argue that theoretically, this change removes the ID requirement, from a practical perspective, we believe it would have the same effect:

  • From a risk management and compliance perspective, many clinics and doctors might have to conclude that the best way to interpret this wording is that while the physician can choose, the physician won’t ever choose, and will simply require ID.
  • From a time and practice management perspective—especially in the face of increased patient loads as onerous regulations force most clinics to close—asking doctors to take time to counsel clients on how to obtain documentation is simply not practical.
  • Asking doctors to be the arbiters of whether an ID from the list in the Texas Family Code §2.005(b) is valid or not is unreasonable as well, from both a time and a risk management perspective.
  • Janes without ID who could, in theory, apply for ID, likely do not have the time or money to do so in advance of an abortion. Unless they live in one of the small number of communities with a local abortion clinic, they have generally spent all of the money they could get just getting there and paying for the procedure. Even if they live nearby, they might not be able to get additional time off work or away from school to go to the appropriate government office. They cannot afford the time to apply and wait for the ID, and they cannot afford for the pregnancy to continue and the procedure, therefore, to become more expensive.
  • Janes who cannot apply for ID, upon learning there is a requirement that that fact they don’t have one will be reported to the government, would more than likely not return for the procedure, unable to trust that their confidentiality would be respected. HIPPA should require confidentiality, but when one’s life and livelihood are at stake, is the vague promise of administrative protection any comfort?

The structure and intent of this bill remain clear, with this change or without it. Rich people of means will be able to get abortions. Vulnerable people living on the margins and young people without a family safety net will face an even higher barrier to safe, legal, compassionate care.

This section of HB 3994 is yet another reason we oppose the legislation, and a fundamental reason we are #HereForJaneTX.