Pro-Life Advocates: As Illinois Repeals Parental Notification, Unborn Children and Young Girls More at Risk

Some 72% of Illinois voters said a parent or guardian should be notified if a minor girl is seeking an abortion, according to a survey conducted in March by the Virginia-based Tarrance Group.

The Illinois House voted to repeal the law by 62-51.
The Illinois House voted to repeal the law by 62-51. (photo: Photographee.eu / Shutterstock)

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — The Illinois legislature’s vote to repeal parental notice requirements for abortion hurts young girls and unborn children, the Catholic Conference of Illinois and other pro-life advocates have said.

“Repealing this law defies public support and is contrary to the legal and moral right of parents to care for their children,” the Catholic conference said Wednesday. “Today’s vote is and will be a tragedy for many families, young girls and so many unborn children. We pray for the day when every human life may be cherished from conception to natural death.”

“Since 2013, this law has served to keep distressed young girls connected to those who love them the most,” the Catholic conference added. “The law has also helped to ensure that those who would abuse minor girls cannot then erase the evidence of their crimes in the nearest abortion clinic.”

The state’s parental notification law was passed in 1995 but only implemented in 2013 after a lengthy court battle. It requires that abortion providers notify the parents of a minor seeking an abortion at least 48 hours before the scheduled abortion, except in certain cases where the minor could not notify a family member. A minor may also seek a judge's approval to bypass the notification requirement.

The Illinois House voted to repeal the law by 62-51.

In the Senate, where Democrats hold 41 seats to 18 Republicans, several Democrats voted against the bill or did not vote. It passed the Senate 32-22. Democratic Sens. Rachelle Crowe, Meg Loughran Cappel and Patrick Joyce voted against repeal, Capitol News Illinois reports.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker has voiced support for repeal and is expected to sign the bill.

The Catholic conference said voters back the current law. Some 72% of Illinois voters said a parent or guardian should be notified if a minor girl is seeking an abortion, according to a survey conducted in March by the Virginia-based Tarrance Group.

“Thirty-seven states, and every other state in the Midwest, have at least parental notice of abortion laws,” the Catholic conference said. “Yet Illinois is no longer among them. What an ignominious outcome for those who supported and voted for the bill.”

House Speaker Emanuel Chris Welch is a chief co-sponsor of the House bill. A similar bill failed to advance last year. Both supporters and foes of the parental notice law said it is the last restriction on abortion in the state, the Associated Press reports. Under a provision of the state constitution, the repeal will not take effect until June 1, 2022 because it failed to secure a three-fifths majority in the House.

Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield in Illinois said that parental notification laws exist “because they protect children from making serious life-changing decisions that they are not yet equipped to make.”

“These laws exist to protect the rights of parents to fulfill the duty that God has entrusted to them, and that no government can take away,” he said at an Oct. 27 press conference.

While pro-life advocates have long opposed abortion on the grounds that the unborn child is a human being killed in the abortion procedure, backers of the repeal depicted abortion as a medical matter.

Emily Werth, a staff attorney at the ACLU of Illinois, said the legislature has decided “that when a young person is pregnant, it is in their best interests and all of our best interest that they have access to whatever medical care they need, without delay, without being put in harm's way.”

“Abortion is one kind of medical care that they may need when they are pregnant. And it should be treated the same as any other kind of medical care,” Werth said.

A March report from ACLU Illinois and Human Rights Watch, which back repeal of the law, said about 1,000 minors have abortions each year in Illinois.

Werth, who in her role with the ACLU affiliate has helped minors secure a judicial bypass, said there have been about 575 instances of a judge granting a bypass since 1993, when the law took effect. The bypass procedure works for almost all individuals who begin it, Werth said, but she objected that many minors are not able to access it.

“The system is complicated and creates significant logistical and emotional burdens for young people,” she said, adding that young people cannot skip school to attend court without their parents being alerted.

Republican Sen. Sue Rezin, who opposed the bill, said it goes beyond “the typical pro-life-versus-pro-choice debate.”

“How would repealing this law not help human traffickers?” she said, according to Capitol News Illinois.

Rezin cited the story of human trafficking survivor Brook Bello. Bello had testified that her traffickers forced her to get abortions decades ago. She thought parental notice rules could have helped free her

Sen. Elgie Sims, a Democrat and sponsor of the repeal bill, cited the bill provisions creating a working group for policy solutions for human trafficking.

Abortion provider Planned Parenthood Illinois said the passage of the repeal bill ensures “that young people can choose to involve the people they trust in their health care decisions and are protected from harmful domestic situations and unnecessary judicial interactions.”

“In short, all Illinoisans, regardless of age, now have the full legal autonomy to make decisions about what's best for their bodies. We look forward to Governor Pritzker upholding his promise to sign this bill when it crosses his desk,” said the group, according to the ABC affiliate WLS News.

Nearly 50,000 Illinois residents sent in electronic notices of opposition to the repeal bill, the Associated Press reports.

Illinois’ Catholic bishops had sought to rally opposition to the repeal effort. In a March letter, they said that the law is based on the hope that parents will be motivated by “deep love and moral obligation” and “act to protect, support and guide their children” when notified.

Repeal of the law, they said, is “nothing less than an invasion into the sacred space of family life by the state, with no provision to support the minor emotionally, humanely or materially at a critical moment in her life.”

The current law also provides “important safeguards against the evils of sexual abuse and human trafficking,” the bishops added.

“If a minor girl can be taken by any adult man to an abortion facility, in the hopes of erasing the evidence of his abuse, what protection exists outside of the girl's parent or guardian being informed? Why would we want to create such a dangerous environment?”

A coalition called Parents for the Protection of Girls sought to defend the law against the repeal effort. Leading groups in the coalition include Illinois Right to Life, March for Life Chicago, the Pro-Life Action League, and Students for Life of America.

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