Springfield, Ill., Mar 16, 2021 / 10:45 am
Some Illinois lawmakers want to repeal a law requiring abortion providers to notify parents of a minor who seeks an abortion, but their effort might not have the sympathy of voters.
"Nearly three-quarters of the people in the state of Illinois are opposed to repealing our parental notice law," said Mary FioRito, an attorney and mother of three who is a fellow at the deNicola Center for Ethics and Culture at the University of Notre Dame.
She served as moderator for a March 15 press conference of supporters of the state's current parental notification law. The event was backed by a coalition called Parents for the Protection of Girls. 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.
FioRito cited a survey from the Virginia-based Tarrance Group, which found that 72% of Illinois voters said a parent or guardian should be notified if a minor girl is seeking an abortion. The poll of 600 Illinois registered voters was conducted March 7-10. It claims a margin of error of plus or minus 4.1%.
The state's parental notification law was passed in 1995 but only implemented in 2013 after a lengthy court battle.
That law 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.
About 37 states have laws requiring parents to be involved in a minor's decision to abort her unborn child, the Guttmacher Institute reports. Some 27 require parental consent, while 10 require parental notification.
Backers of the parental consent law said the failure to implement it until 2013 made Illinois a destination for minors seeking abortion and 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 states' reporting requirements.
In 2019, the state legislature passed the Reproductive Health Act, which recognized a "fundamental right" to abortion in the state.
Now, State Sen. Elgie Sims, D-Chicago, and State Rep. Anna Moeller, D-Elgin, have filed bills to repeal the Illinois law. House Speaker Emanuel Chris Welch is a chief co-sponsor of the House bill.
A report from ACLU Illinois and the Human Rights Watch, which back repeal of the law, said about 1,000 minors in Illinois have abortions each year.
Margaret Wurth, a senior researcher with Human Rights Watch, said minors fear "being forced to continue a pregnancy against their will or being kicked out of the home or being cut off financially."
Wurth said the judicial bypass option was not appealing to racial minorities.
"For them, going to court, going to a place often associated with criminal legal proceedings, and in the context of systemic racism, can be especially harmful," she said, WSIL TV reports.
Amy Gehrke, executive director of Illinois Right to Life, said repealing the notification law would "completely usurp" the rights of parents who want to have a role in their daughters' decisions. She said there is a danger repeal could protect human traffickers or sexual predators who rely on abortion to help cover up their crimes.
"Not all families are perfect and, with this in mind, the law allows for a judicial bypass. The reality is, however, that the vast majority of parents love their children and want what's best for them," Gehrke said, according to WSIL-TV. "Repealing parental notification would harm the relationship between parent and child and prevent parents from knowing their daughters might be in danger."
Dr. Brook Bello, a survivor of human trafficking and founder of the anti-trafficking organization More Too Life, said notification laws can help trafficking victims.
"If my mother had had to be notified, she might have been able to find me," she said at the March 15 press conference.
Psychologist Dr. Jacque Pfeifer cited the process of brain development and its typical completion by the mid-20s. This means that teenagers are likely to make more impulsive decisions.
"The majority of teens are not prepared to make long-term decisions due to their lack of mental capacity to reflect, synthesize, integrate, and project thinking into the future," she said at press conference.
Rep. Avery Bourne, a Republican, told WSIL-TV that the current law only requires parental notification, not consent.
"It's just notifying them that this is happening and allowing them to have that conversation to maybe stop that abortion from happening," Bourne said.
Bourne said several Democrats voted against the 2019 pro-abortion rights bill and she expects many to vote against repeal of the notification law.
"This is not a partisan issue," she said. "We have people on both sides of the aisle who are pro-life and vote for pro-life policies. So, I look forward to working with them to help defeat this bill."
The Illinois House of Representatives' Human Services Committee is expected to hold a hearing on the repeal bill. Last year a bill to repeal parental notification law failed.