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Lawmaker Scraps Bill Naming Judges Who Grant Teen Abortions

David Martin Davies
TPR News

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — A Texas lawmaker is scrapping his effort to reveal the names of judges who permit teens to have abortions if they can’t get the required consent from their parents, in favor of an even stricter measure.

Carrollton Republican Rep. Ron Simmons’ legislative director Zach Flores said “ongoing conversations” led him to pull his proposal from a Wednesday committee hearing. State law for years has allowed judges to grant abortions to girls younger than 18 in extreme cases, but the law also mandates that most information on the cases remain confidential.

Simmons’ bill would have partially changed that, and, critics said, would have further politicized the election of judges and endangered judges’ lives. Flores said Simmons pulled the bill to instead support a bill by Victoria Republican Rep. Geanie Morrison that advanced to the House floor this week. The measure would make sweeping changes to the so-called judicial bypasses. “Both bills share the goal of saving as many unborn lives as possible, and ensuring the integrity of the judicial bypass process,” Flores said.

Each year, about 300 teenagers are granted a court-approved abortion after proving to a judge that they are mature enough to make the decision, or that telling her parents would lead to physical, sexual or emotional abuse, or that consulting them would otherwise not be in her best interest.

The procedure was established to help Texas’ parental consent law comply with Supreme Court rulings mandating that parents couldn’t have an absolute veto over a daughter’s decision to end a pregnancy.

This session, Simmons, Morrison and Republican Rep. Matt Krause drafted legislation targeting the process. On Wednesday, Krause said he has pulled his bill, too, in favor of Morrison’s proposal. “All three of us are going for the same goal,” Krause said. “If we all work together, it probably has a better chance of getting momentum.”

He added that it helps that Morrison has some seniority in the lower chamber; she was elected to the Texas House in 1999, the same year the state passed the judicial bypass law. Two years later, the Austin nonprofit Jane’s Due Process was born to help teens navigate Texas’ judicial bypass process.

Executive Director Tina Hester said that they were glad Simmons’ bill was pulled down, but added that Morrison’s proposal is “very dangerous” and also could lead to the identification of judges who approve the abortions.

While Hester acknowledged that Morrison’s bill did advance out of committee this week, “It’s kind of late in the session, and it will take a lot of machinations for it to get out.”

After the bill reaches the House floor, it would have to be approved by a Senate committee and the full Senate before reaching the governor and being signed into law. (AP)