HB 3994 is a bill authored by Representative Geanie Morrison (R-Victoria) that drastically alters the judicial bypass procedure and tightens several other restrictions governing access to abortion care in Texas. Many are of the opinion that HB 3994 is so restrictive that it may violate the constitution. If it becomes law, it will very likely be challenged in court.
As of May 21, 2015, HB 3994 has been placed on the Senate intent calendar for a hearing on Friday, May 22, 2015. Senate hearing times, and the order in which bills are called, are unpredictable. The deadline for the bill to passed into law is midnight on Sunday, May 31, 2015.
You can read the law itself, and check on its progress through the legislature, on Texas Legislature Online.
You can consult these articles to understand why the provisions of HB 3994 are so dangerous for Texas Janes:
You should also read this sobering report on how ill-prepared most Texas courts are to comply even with the law as it already stands. Minors calling courts get bad information at best, and often shaming, inappropriate, and unprofessional treatment from government employees sharing their personal and religious beliefs instead of facts.
Three of the most harmful elements—though sadly, it was hard to pick just three:
- Under the bill, health care providers must presume that all patients seeking abortion care are minors, and it requires patients to show government identification to prove otherwise. With no exceptions for circumstances when the patient is clearly an adult but lacks the required ID, this policy is tantamount to a ban on abortion for those who do not have government ID and would have the greatest impact on undocumented Texans.
- Currently, a judge has two days to rule. If the judge fails to rule, the bypass is presumed granted, and the minor can obtain an order from the court and get an abortion. Under this bill, the time to rule is extended to five days. If a judge does not rule, the bypass is presumed denied. If the bypass is granted, the doctor (not the minor) must obtain the order from the court. Five days is essentially a week, because courts do not operate on weekends. And a week, when it comes to obtaining an abortion in Texas, can be a difference of hundreds of dollars or not being able to access the service at all.
- The bill changes makes two changes to how the judge must interpret the evidence. One, it raises the standard of review from preponderance of evidence to clear and convincing evidence. Two, it changes the little word “or” in the original law to “and” in relation to the three elements a minor must demonstrate to be deemed mature enough to obtain the bypass. These two changes will make it almost impossible for a judge too rule in favor of a minor.