AUSTIN, Texas -- I have been observing the flappette over the sexist remarks of Harvard's president, Larry Summers, with some amusement. Initially, it was hard to sort out whether we had a case of an educator trying to provoke an interesting discussion, or one of those hoo-hahs where political correctness runs amok, or just another dimwitted sexist being ignorant. Turns out to be all three.

I would worry more about this -- I so enjoy being part of our national intellectual discourse -- except the Texas legislature is in session again, so I have to keep my indignation dry for the real thing. It is a source of constant wonder to me that the Lege, bad as I have known it to be all these years, is yet capable of becoming eternally worse. Among the nasty horrors awaiting us is H.B. 1212, mandating parental consent for the performance of an abortion.

We already have a parental notification requirement in Texas, so how much different can consent be? Of course you don't want your underage daughter getting an abortion without your knowledge, what parent would?

But there are those occasional horrible exceptions, which is why the judicial bypass exists. If a minor can go before a court and prove she either cannot or clearly should not notify her parents, a judge can grant her exemption from the requirement. The system barely works now, and the new bill would make it all but impossible for most girls by limiting venue to the girls' county of residence and those neighboring it, and other changes. There are 254 counties in Texas, and as surveys have shown, most of the county clerks don't even know there is such a procedure, much less how to file one ("Honey, I have no idea," is the classic response). The problems of small-town application should be apparent to all.

Please believe that you do not know what "dysfunctional family" means until you have studied applications for judicial bypass. These cases are from the files of Jane's Due Process, a Texas organization that provides lawyers for pregnant minors seeking a bypass.

Social worker for a 13-year-old: "She ran away from her foster home and was gone for eight weeks. Now she's in an emergency shelter and is pregnant. Her mother is deceased. Her father raped her when she was 8 years old and is still in prison for it. I knew her when she had to testify against him. I don't know if I can convince her to go back to court, but she definitely wants an abortion."

Boyfriend of a 15-year-old: "She can't report anything to the police about what her stepfather does to the family. He works for the department. And this is a very small town. The family seems to live in fear of him."

"My older sister got pregnant when she was 17. My mother pushed her against the wall, slapped her across the face and then grabbed her by the hair, pulled her through the living room, out the front door and threw her off the porch. We don't know where she is now." -- pregnant 16-year-old.

"My little sister was raped. Our parents are somewhere in Mexico, but I don't know if I can find them." -- older sister.

Grandmother of a 15-year-old: "She just told us that she was raped. We had no idea that she was pregnant. Her mother is dead, and her father is being transferred to (another prison). Is there any way we can get this done?"

Seventeen-year-old: "I called my older sister to see if she knew where my mother was. She hasn't heard from her in over six months. I've never known my father. So I went to the courthouse to file my application (for judicial bypass), and the judge came out of his office and told me that he would give me a hearing but that he didn't believe in abortion and that he would never give me the OK to have one. And he knows me. He knows my family. He already knows I'm raising a 5-month-old."

"My mother's boyfriend used to hit her and sometimes I would try to stop him, but then he'd start hitting me. I left home to live with my boyfriend when I found out I was pregnant the first time. My mother wouldn't let me have an abortion, so I knew a baby would be safer living away from her and her boyfriend. But my boyfriend started hitting me as soon as I moved in. So I got my own place, a car and two jobs. I'm pregnant again, but I can't tell my mom because she would stop me from getting an abortion." -- 17-year-old high school graduate, mother of a 2-year-old daughter, father deceased.

I spare you the incest cases, except to note that it is much more common than any of us would like to believe and not limited to any economic class.

Yeah, it's really terrible what the president of Harvard said.

To find out more about Molly Ivins and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at COPYRIGHT 2005 CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.