CHICAGO — The Illinois Supreme Court struck down a legal challenge to a state law requiring parental notification for minors to have abortions, clearing the way for the law to take effect next month.
The unanimous ruling, written by Justice Anne Burke, means pregnant women under the age of 18 will need to notify parents or guardians to obtain an abortion as of Aug. 15, according to the office of state Attorney General Lisa Madigan, who argued in favor of the law.
"We’re not surprised by the unanimous decision of the Illinois Supreme Court today," said Madigan spokeswoman Maura Possley. "A vast majority of states in the nation has some form of parental-involvement law, and the courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court, have repeatedly upheld these laws. Importantly, the Illinois law includes a number of protections for young women, so they aren’t required to notify a parent if doing so would jeopardize their health or safety."
The law requires unmarried women under the age of 18, who have not already been legally emancipated, to notify parents or guardians 48 hours before an abortion. It does allow for exceptions in the case of incest and other severe family conflicts, but calls for applicants to formally file for a judicial bypass.
Planned Parenthood of Illinois President Carole Brite said she was "disappointed" by the ruling, but said that the agency was committed to following the law and "doing everything we can to make this new process as easy as possible for teens" when it takes effect.
"Planned Parenthood agrees that in an ideal world parents would be involved in their teens’ health care and engaged in healthy dialog around responsible decision-making," Brite said. "Most teens seek their parents' advice and counsel when making decisions about their health care.
"But in some cases, safe and open communication is not possible. In those cases, research shows mandatory parental-notice laws do not enhance parent-teen communication. Rather, they can be harmful to teens’ health and well-being," Brite said.
"The focus should be on giving teens the information they need to make responsible decisions and continue to encourage healthy family communication, not erecting barriers to critical health care services," said Brite.
Brite said the law "puts the health and safety of teens at unnecessary risk."
Terry Cosgrove, president of the Illinois abortion-rights agency Personal PAC, echoed that, saying, "Illinois looks more like Texas today," and calling it "a dark day for the young women of Illinois.
"There are thousands of at-risk young women who face dangers in their homes from incest, violence, drug and alcohol addiction, mental illness and abusive parents," Cosgrove added. "Under this law, these vulnerable and terrorized teenagers now will be required to inform their parents, many of whom are absent, that they are seeking an abortion and then to face the consequences, whatever they may be."
Cosgrove called the ruling "nothing short of heartless and cruel," and used it as a clarion call for political action affirming abortion rights.
The law had been on the books since 1995, and had replaced an earlier 1983 law struck down by the courts, but had never been enforced as it worked its way through legal challenges. According to Madigan's office, it will be administered by the state's medical licensing board and county court clerks.