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Monday, January 25, 1999
Houston, Texas
Volume 64, Issue 78

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Bill would require minors to receive abortion approval

By Phuong Le
Daily Cougar Staff

In an effort to increase conservative legislation in Texas, state Rep. Arlene Wohlgemuth, R-Burleson, has pre-filed a bill that would require Texas doctors to request permission from the legal guardians or minors requesting an abortion.

The bill would make it a criminal offense for any doctor to perform an abortion on a minor without receiving approval either from the courts or the minor's legal guardian.

"We would like to see a return to parental authority," Wohlgemuth told The Daily Texan. "Also, we need to find ways to help lower the pregnancy and abortion rates in Texas."

The physician performing the abortion must notify parents in person or at least 48 hours before the procedure is scheduled to take place. If the minor does not have a legal guardian, the probate court of Texas will assign a managing conservator who would be able to give permission for the minor.

In cases of medical emergencies, the bill states the attending physician must prove that a "medical emergency does exist and there is insufficient time to provide the required notice."

Wohlgemuth explained that there is one way around parental notification.

"If a girl is afraid of violence that may occur because of notification, she may appear before a judge. If the judge finds that there is a compelling reason not to notify the parents, they will not be notified," she said.

In order to take that route, the minor would have to file an application to the court explaining that she feels one or more of her parents should not be informed of her pregnancy.

The application must state that "the minor is pregnant, the minor is unmarried, and is under 18 years of age," and it must include "a statement that the minor wishes to have an abortion without notification of either their parents or legal guardians, and a statement of whether an attorney has been obtained," the bill states.

If the minor did not have an attorney, one would be appointed by the court.

The bill also states that, if the court fails to rule on a filed application in a timely manner and an extension of the application has not been requested, the abortion would be granted.

The applicant's name would be protected by the courts. Minors would also have the opportunity to appeal with the protection of confidentiality.

Under the proposal, failing to obtain approval before performing an abortion on a minor would result in a Class A misdemeanor for the attending physician.

According to Wohlgemuth's office, House Bill 342 has only been filed with the Texas Legislature, and thus has not yet had the opportunity to be debated.

David Realms, junior psychology UH student said, "Government should not be the right hand in abortion rights of any person. This is a choice for every woman in America."

If passed, the legislation will become effective Jan. 1, 2000. Any abortions performed before that date would not be subject to passed legislation.

"Judgment regarding abortions should not be an age-based phenomenon; instead, experience should be the factor in accepting the responsibilities of an abortion," said Angela Sanchez, a senior communication major. "It should not be a criminal offense for the doctor.

"Doctors already have their hands full on legality. Responsibility in abortion should be strictly that of the individual."
 

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