Illinois Supreme Court to Take Parental Notification Case

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Nov 30, 2011   |   7:36PM   |   Springfield, IL

Today, the Illinois Supreme Court agreed to decide whether the Parental Notice of Abortion Act of 1995 violates the Illinois State Constitution of 1970.

Pro-life groups have sought to put the law into effect for more than 15 years, and the state’s high court will now consider a lawsuit from the ACLU to determine if the statute violates the Illinois Constitution and whether the state constitution includes a right to an abortion.

Abortion was illegal in Illinois from the time of the State Constitution’s adoption until the United States Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision in 1973.

The Chicago-based Thomas More Society sought to intervene in the case on behalf of two Illinois State’s Attorneys, whom the Act vests with enforcement responsibilities, and who questioned the adequacy of representation of their interests by the Office of Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan. The Society also filed a brief for more than twenty Illinois State’s Attorneys as amici curiae on the merits in defense of the Parental Notice Act in the Appellate Court.

Paul Linton, Special Counsel for the Society, welcomed the Illinois Supreme Court’s decision to review the Act.

“The Illinois Supreme Court’s action ensures that there will be a prompt resolution of the law’s constitutionality, and we believe that the high Court will uphold the law,” he said. “Similar laws in other States have been associated with significant declines in the numbers of out-of-wedlock pregnancies, births, and abortions among minors.  The United States Supreme Court has repeatedly recognized the vital interests that States have in protecting pregnant minors and the rights of their parents to provide guidance and counsel in this very sensitive area.”

Subject to certain exceptions, including medical emergencies, the Illinois Parental Notice Act – whose enforcement has been blocked almost from its inception due to successive federal and state court challenges brought by the ACLU – requires that an unemancipated minor notify one of her parents, her legal guardian, a step-parent residing in the same household, or a grandparent of her intention to obtain an abortion.

In 1995, the Illinois General Assembly enacted the Parental Notice of Abortion Act, which requires a parent or guardian to be notified 48 hours before a child under 18 has an abortion. In 1996, a federal district court permanently enjoined the Act due to the lack of a confidential appeal and bypass rule. In 2006, the Illinois Supreme Court issued the required appeal and bypass rule, but the parental notice law still has not gone into effect due to litigation in federal and state courts by the American Civil Liberties Union.

Since 1995, over 50,000 abortions have been performed on Illinois minors. Illinois is the only Midwest state without a parental notice or consent law in effect, and so, over the same period, thousands more abortions were performed in Illinois on non-resident minors, who were allowed to escape or even evade their own States’ parental notice or consent laws.

Although the Illinois General Assembly enacted the current parental notice law on a bipartisan basis more than 15 years ago, the law has not gone into effect because of the ACLU’s federal and state court challenges. Though upheld by a Cook County judge, the law’s enforcement was still “stayed” by agreement of the ACLU and Attorney General, pending a final ruling on the ACLU’s appeal. The  ACLU filed the challenge in state court on behalf of the Hope Clinic for Women, an abortion business in Granite City outside St. Louis, and abortion practitioner Allison Cowett.

Meanwhile, Americans United for Life also filed an amicus curiae brief on behalf of eight Illinois legislators supporting the parental notification law and urging the First District appellate court to uphold the law.

“This group of Illinois lawmakers has taken an important stand on behalf of parental rights. When a child is considering a potential chemical or surgical abortion, the parents have a right to know,” AUL Staff Counsel Mailee R. Smith told “Parental involvement decreases both teen pregnancy and teen birth rates, and it is tragic that legal wrangling has prevented parental involvement in a situation where it is so essential.”

AUL also details the plethora of studies demonstrating that abortion harms women- and especially minors- both physically and psychologically, and that parental involvement laws help shield minors from sexual exploitation.