Editor’s note: In its new parental notification law, the Texas Legislature appears to have called for complete confidentiality for the court proceedings where a minor may seek a judge’s permission to have an abortion without notifying her parents. Lawmakers charged the Texas Supreme Court with writing rules for the judicial bypass process. The court now is in the uncomfortable position of knowingly promulgating secrecy provisions that many believe violate the open courts provision of the Texas Constitution. The court’s Rules Advisory Committee had an emotional debate on the issue Oct. 22 in Austin. The committee considered three options: Make all of the proceedings at the trial and appellate levels confidential; keep the minor’s name private but allow the judges’ names and rulings to be public; or be silent on the issue. The committee voted 25 to 8 for complete confidentiality. Following are excerpts of the debate, edited for length, style and clarity.
Justice Ann Crawford McClure, 8th Court of Appeals: My understanding was the Legislature wanted there to be some body of law to develop, obviously through appellate decisions, as to the parameters that ought to be considered. What are the factors judges should be looking at in deciding maturity? What are the factors judges should be looking at in deciding whether parental notification is or is not in the child’s best interest? The only way we can do that through published appellate decisions is to publish. And certainly to publish an opinion completely violates the confidentiality.
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