Texas Governor Abbott Signs Bill Blocking Young Women’s Access to Safe, Legal Abortion

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Abbott signs measure four days after devastating appellate court decision which threatens to leave only eight abortion clinics in the state. Measure could ban abortion for women of any age without proof of identity and age.
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(PRESS RELEASE) Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed a measure into law today making several changes to the state’s current system for teens seeking abortion services—including a requirement which could serve as a de facto ban on abortion for any woman who does not have valid proof of identify and age.

HB 3994 includes a provision requiring physicians obtain “proof of identity and age” from any woman seeking abortion services.  This requirement could be impossible for many women of any age to meet and essentially serve as a backdoor abortion ban for the most vulnerable communities--including those who may be undocumented, low-income, or survivors of trafficking.

The measure—scheduled to take effect on January 1, 2016—also enacts myriad new restrictions on young women’s access to safe abortion care, specifically teens who are seeking a judicial bypass to abortion services.  HB 3994 would compromise the confidentiality of minors by requiring most teens to file a bypass petition in the county where they reside, while lengthening the time a judge is required to rule on a teen’s request for judicial bypass to five business days.  Additionally, the measure alters current law by prohibiting judges from considering emotional abuse when determining whether a teen obtaining an abortion without involving her parents is in her best interests.

“It’s cruel and callous to deny safe, legal abortion care to young people who have faced abuse, neglect, abandonment, and other threats to their safety and well-being,” said Nancy Northup, president and CEO at the Center for Reproductive Rights.  “Texas women have already seen their health care options devastated by politicians piling on one severe restriction after another, and this will only drive a bigger wedge between them and the high-quality care they need.”

“Texas women are sick of politicians playing games with their health,” said Jessica González-Rojas, Executive Director of the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health. “This latest policy would not only deny safe and timely care to young women, it would force every woman in Texas seeking an abortion to produce a specific form of ID or be turned away. The impact on rural, low-income, and immigrant Latinas, many of whom lack these forms of ID, will be devastating.”

Current Texas law already requires both consent and notification from at least one parent before a teen can receive safe and legal abortion services.  Most young women seeking an abortion in the United States a involve a parent--but some teens live in abusive homes, or are in a situation where it would not be safe to disclose a pregnancy.  These types of restrictions only further drive the most vulnerable and abused Texas teens further away from high-quality, safe, and legal reproductive health care.

Today’s measure comes almost two years after then-Governor Rick Perry signed HB2, an infamous package of anti-choice measures which has already decimated abortion access in Texas and at one time left only seven clinics remaining in the state.  On Tuesday, the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit upheld the most onerous restrictions of HB2:  the requirement that every reproductive health care facility offering abortion services meet the same building requirements as an ambulatory surgical center (ASC) and the admitting privileges requirement as it applies to two of the hardest-hit communities in the Rio Grande Valley and West Texas--potentially leaving only eight abortion-providing clinics to serve the second most populous state in the nation.

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