Teens Seeking Judicial Bypass Abortion in Texas Shamed

New study finds court process functions as "form of punishment"

Teens Seeking Judicial Bypass Abortion in Texas Shamed
by Jana Birchum

A new study finds that judicial bypass, the court process by which minors seek permission from a judge to obtain an abortion without parental consent, acts as a "form of punishment" for young Texas teens. Judicial bypass minors – often estranged from their parents, suffering family trauma, or coming from households with substance abuse – already see logistical barriers like transportation and time off from school. In 2016, anti-choice state lawmakers made the process additionally onerous by making it easier for judges to deny requests, and harder for minors to obtain a bypass farther from home. Research­ers found the law has resulted in "humiliating" and "unpredictable" hurdles.

The report, published this month in the Journal of Adolescent Health, is based on interviews with 20 adolescents between the ages of 16 and 19 about their experiences trying to obtain a bypass. Teens faced intimidation and shame from court-appointed guardians and judges, who failed to conceal their personal disapproval of abortion and premarital sex. In one case, a young woman was asked for a detailed sexual history and forced to answer in open court, while another says her guardian told her "it's never the right option to have an abortion" and brought adoption agency staff to court, thus violating the minor's anonymity. In four cases, the guardian appointed by the judge was a church pastor or deacon. For some, the entire process felt like punishment for having sex and getting pregnant. Perhaps most troubling, many of the young women "internalized the stigma" and felt the humiliating process was something they deserved. Multiple study participants cried during interviews when describing their court hearings, and have experienced long-term trauma.

"Proponents of parental involvement and bypass laws claim they protect adolescents from alleged negative emotional consequences of abortion, yet our results suggest the bypass process itself causes emotional harm through unpredictability, humiliation, and shame," said lead author Kate Coleman-Minahan, assistant professor at the University of Colorado Col­lege of Nursing. She's joined by UT-Austin-based Texas Policy Evaluation Project's Amanda Jean Stevenson, UT's Emily Obront, and local judicial bypass attorney Susan Hays. It's the first study to describe adolescents' experiences with judicial bypass.

Got something to say? The Chronicle welcomes opinion pieces on any topic from the community. Submit yours now at austinchronicle.com/opinion.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More judicial bypass
Senate Approves Judicial Bypass Restrictions
Senate Approves Judicial Bypass Restrictions
Senate OKs bill restricting abortion access for abused minors

Mary Tuma, May 29, 2015

Suffer the Children
Suffer the Children
New target for anti-abortion Lege

Mary Tuma, May 22, 2015

More by Mary Tuma
Abortion Care Providers “Heartened” After SB 8 Hearing at SCOTUS
Abortion Care Providers “Heartened” After SB 8 Hearing at SCOTUS
Oral arguments focus on law’s vigilante enforcement

Nov. 5, 2021

Abortion Care Providers “Heartened” After SB 8 Hearing at SCOTUS
Abortion Care Providers “Heartened” After SB 8 Hearing at SCOTUS
Oral arguments focus on law’s vigilante enforcement

Nov. 1, 2021


report rights, judicial bypass, Kate Coleman-Minehan

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Keep up with happenings around town

Kevin Curtin's bimonthly cannabis musings

Austin's queerest news and events

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle