Illinois Democrats could repeal parental notification of abortion law during veto session

Many supporters of the 1995 law say it’s common sense and helps families stay involved in the process, even though consent isn’t required
Published: Oct. 20, 2021 at 5:38 AM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (Gray TV) - Illinois is one of many states reacting to the abortion ban in Texas. Democratic lawmakers hope to repeal an Illinois law that requires parents or guardians to be notified at least 48 hours before a minor seeks an abortion.

Many supporters of the 1995 law say it’s common sense and helps families stay involved in the process, even though consent isn’t required. However, that legislation faced an uphill battle in courts before it finally went into effect in 2013.

However, advocates say most young people already involve their parents in this decision. But they’re more concerned about minors who can’t have that conversation at home. Young people must go through a judicial bypass if they can’t talk to a trusted adult.

“They are expected to share some of the most personal details about a very personal decision with a complete stranger. And they put their future in that stranger’s hands,” said Brigid Leahy, Senior Public Policy Director of Planned Parenthood of Illinois.

Leahy says judicial bypass has taken place 550 times since the law took effect. She also noted a judge has only denied access to abortion once. Leahy also said many Illinois judges feel most girls are mature enough to make the decision without court action.

An extra layer of protection for young women

Although, Republicans say repealing the law could protect child traffickers and rapists of young girls.

“This is one of the very few tools that we have to hold these people accountable and make sure that their parents know what’s going on in their minor daughters’ lives,” said Rep. Avery Bourne (R-Morrisonville). “In many cases, they’re able to bring them home and get them out of a terrible situation.”

Bourne has a consistent voting record against abortion proposals. She stressed the parental notice of abortion is an extra layer of protection for young women. Bourne noted that Illinois has seen far fewer minors having abortions since the law took effect eight years ago.

She said minors are also getting the support they need, and Democrats shouldn’t take that away from them.

Still, sponsors and advocates feel they must make this change now.

Advocates say Illinois cannot move backward

“We see the trend in all of the states around us in the Midwest and the South,” Leahy said. “We see that they are going backwards when it comes to access to reproductive healthcare while Illinois needs to move forward.”

Bourne said girls under 18 cannot have any other medical procedure done without parental notification or, in some cases, consent. For example, she explained that minors can’t get a Tylenol in school or go to a tattoo shop to get a permanent mark on their bodies without permission. Bourne also said girls couldn’t even tan if they’re under 18, regardless of consent, due to safety.

“Clearly, seeking a serious medical procedure like abortion should rise to a higher level than getting a tattoo or going tanning. But if this bill passes, it won’t,” Bourne said.

Sponsors continue to work with advocates to see how many Democrats they can get to support the repeal. However, it’s still unknown if they’ll have enough for a vote this session.

Gov. JB Pritzker said last week that he is in favor of repealing the PNA law. Pritzker doesn’t know if lawmakers will vote on the repeal this week. Still, he noted significant support for it since his election in 2018.

A major discussion over a law that impacts less than 100 young people each year

Even so, Bourne said lawmakers standing up for their constituents should vote against the repeal. She said a majority of Illinoisans oppose repealing this law. Bourne said Democrats are wrong to sneak this legislation in during the veto session.

Leahy said no law can force a family to have a good relationship. She also stressed that no law could dictate communication between family members. Leahy feels it’s wrong to assume everyone can do that easily.

“We are talking about those few young people. It’s fewer than 100 per year,” Leahy said. “They’re in personal circumstances where it is unsafe for them or dangerous or they just have no relationship with their parents at all. This law really doesn’t impact most young people. But, the people it impacts are the people it can most harm.”

Rep. Anna Moeller (D-Elgin), a lead sponsor of the repeal legislation, was unavailable for an interview Tuesday.

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