Two University of Colorado researchers led a study published on Thursday which found that up to 13% of Texas minors seeking an abortion were denied by judges after a 2016 law change.
Thirty-seven states require parental notification and/or consent for minors electing to have an abortion. Colorado requires notification, but not consent, due to a 2003 law that instituted a 48-hour notification by the physician or provider. A “judicial bypass” allows the ability for a judge to permit an abortion in cases where the parent does not.
“The judicial bypass process itself harms young people through humiliation and trauma,” said Kate Coleman-Minahan, assistant professor in the college of nursing at CU Anschutz Medical Campus. “Our new data suggest the process additionally harms young people through the denial of judicial bypass, which then effectively eliminates access to abortion.”
A Texas law, House Bill 3994, limited the locations in which a minor could request a bypass, added additional factors for a judge to consider in granting permission, and raised the burden of proof for the minor to “clear and convincing evidence.”
“Judicial bypass exists to assure that a parent cannot veto a teenager’s abortion decision,” said Amanda Jean Stevenson with CU’s sociology department. “Instead, it is just giving that veto power to a judge.”
Prior to 2016, the largest number of denials in a given year in Texas was six. In 2016, the number was 23.
The American Journal of Public Health study from Stevenson, Coleman-Minahan and Texas attorney Susan Hays also found that after the spike due to HB3994, the percentage of denials continued to fluctuate.
“The wild thing is that the pattern after the law changed indicated that judges might not just be denying cases based on their merits,” Stevenson wrote on Twitter.
Colorado has relatively few of the abortion restrictions found in other states, but a proposed ballot initiative backed by the Catholic Church seeks to ban abortions after 22 weeks. Circulators are currently gathering signatures to put the measure, number 120, on the November ballot.