Parental Notification in Illinois: Will Minors Finally be Protected?

Opinion   |   Bill Saunders   |   Dec 8, 2010   |   2:27PM   |   Springfield, IL

To date, minors in the state of Illinois have been completely unprotected from the physical and psychological harms of abortion.

In 1995, legislators in the Illinois General Assembly passed the Illinois Parental Notice of Abortion Act (“Act”); but due to legal challenges by the ACLU and their allies, the law has been enjoined for 15 years. 

Even to a lawyer, 15 years of litigation is an incredible amount of time—especially considering the fact that many women who were minors at the time of enactment may have teen children themselves now who could be impacted and protected by the law.

In 2009, it appeared that the Seventh Circuit would finally put an end to the legal wrangling.  Rejecting a final challenge to the law, that court stated that the Act should go into effect immediately.  But due to an additional state court challenge by the ACLU—and the inherent problem of Illinois politics—the law was enjoined yet again.

At this point, the case rests with the First Appellate court in Illinois. 

Last month, attorneys on both sides—including Americans United for Life—filed written arguments in the case.  AUL and our allies remain cautiously optimistic that the state appellate court will see what the Seventh Circuit saw: that the Act is constitutional, and that the ACLU’s current challenge is merely a thinly veiled attempt to delay the inevitable enforcement of a desperately needed (and constitutional) law.

Unfortunately, with every day that goes by, this delay in enforcement of the law impacts minors in irreparable ways.  As AUL pointed out in its Amicus Curiae brief (filed on behalf of Illinois legislators), minors are particularly susceptible to the physical and psychological risks of abortion.  Study after study has documented that heightened risks of infection, pre-term birth in subsequent pregnancies, and even suicide—just to name a few—plague minors who have had abortions.

The majority of states—31, to be exact—recognize the need to protect minors and maintain parental involvement laws.  As 2010 draws to a close, we are hopeful that 2011 holds new promise for minors in the state of Illinois.