The open venue provision is necessary to protect a minor’s constitutional right to have an abortion. Under the open venue provision, a minor may petition from any county in Texas for a judicial bypass to keep her abortion private. Proposed legislation, such as Texas House Bill 1212, threatens that right by restricting a minor from obtaining a judicial bypass only from the county of her residence. In Planned Parenthood of Central Missouri v. Danforth, the United States Supreme Court held it was constitutional for states to require a minor to obtain parental consent in order to obtain an abortion. Bellotti v. Baird, however, held that all states must provide an alternative procedure for a minor to receive an abortion and remain anonymous. Although Texas would still be in compliance if Texas House Bill 1212 passes, the minor’s anonymity is threatened. The approval of judicial bypasses are dependent on district clerks. If the minor’s county is ill-informed or biased against abortions, the minor may be indirectly denied her constitutional right to obtain an abortion. In 2006, a survey of all 254 district clerks in Texas was conducted. A representative called each district clerk office and inquired about judicial bypasses. More than 50% of the clerks surveyed offered little to no assistance. In fact, many clerks did not know what a judicial bypass was. Some clerks refused to offer assistance because of their personal beliefs against abortion. If a minor seeking a judicial bypass unfortunately resides in a county with an uninformed or biased district clerk, the minor will be denied the ability to get an anonymous abortion. An open venue provision would give a minor the option to seek assistance from another county. Therefore, it is imperative that the open venue provision remain in force and available to minors.
Shelia Cheaney & Laura Smith,
Staying Open: How Restricting Venue in Texas's Judicial Bypass Cases Would Hurt Minors and Violate the Constitution.,
Available at: https://commons.stmarytx.edu/thescholar/vol9/iss1/2
St. Mary's University School of Law