Springfield, Ill., Mar 17, 2021 / 19:01 pm
Illinois' requirement to notify parents of a minor who seeks an abortion is a law that helps save lives and ensures parents are involved in their children's major decisions, the Catholic bishops of Illinois have said in a call to action to oppose the law's repeal.
Repeal would lead to "tragic and irreversible outcomes," they said in a March 16 letter.
"Simply put, the Parental Notice of Abortion Act works," said the letter. "According to statistics gathered by the Illinois Department of Public Health, since the law's final enactment by the Illinois Supreme Court in 2013, abortions performed on minors in Illinois have decreased over 30 percent. The lives saved by this law are real and present among us."
The March 16 letter from the Illinois Catholic Conference was signed by the ordinaries of the six Latin rite diocese in the state.
Altogether, 37 U.S. states require some form of parental involvement when a minor seeks an abortion.
"Illinois has been among those states for 8 years and no obvious problems or detriments have been publicly exposed," said the bishops.
They urged voters to write their state senators, state representatives, and the governor to oppose the repeal bills, H.B. 1797 and S.B. 2190.
"In our concern for all human life, and particularly for the struggles of young girls in these difficult circumstances and their unborn children, we ask you to participate in this effort," they said. "Together we are strong, and we can make a difference."
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 from the Virginia-based Tarrance Group.
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.
A 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.
Illinois' Catholic bishops 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.
"In every other facet of life, we are taught – and we teach – that parental involvement is key to the child's best interest," they said. "Repealing the Act 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 clinic, 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?"
State Sen. Elgie Sims, D-Chicago, and State Rep. Anna Moeller, D-Elgin, have filed bills to repeal the parental notice law this session. House Speaker Emanuel Chris Welch is a chief co-sponsor of the House bill. A similar bill failed to advance last year.
Several Democrats voted against a 2019 pro-abortion rights bill, and foes of the repeal say many Democrats could vote against the latest legislation and preserve the parental notice law.
Backers of the repeal have said that minors seeking abortions fear being forced to continue a pregnancy, being kicked out of their home, or being cut off financially by their parents. They have said the judicial bypass option does not appeal to racial minorities and others who are sceptical of the court system.
The Catholic bishops alluded to such arguments in their letter, saying, "It is unfortunately true that not all young people come from loving homes." They said the judicial bypass process can be "emotionally difficult."
"However, such difficulty must be weighed against the harm done when our laws effectively undermine family life by separating children from the care of parents who love them the most," said their letter. "The state should do everything to support families, not destabilize them."
Other backers of the parental consent law said the failure to implement it until 2013 made Illinois a destination for minors seeking abortion. Repeal would allow minors to be taken to Illinois for abortions without parental knowledge by persons who may be exploiting them and seek to avoid their state's reporting requirements.
A coalition called Parents for the Protection of Girls seeks 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.
The Illinois House of Representatives' Human Services Committee is expected to hold a hearing on the repeal bill.