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Sixteen years after the Illinois Parental Notice Act was adopted by lawmakers and signed into law by then-Gov. Jim Edgar to provide that a parent or guardian must be notified 48 hours before a child under 18 has an abortion, a decision could be coming on whether it will be effective.
The law was unusable for the first 11 years of its life because of legal challenges and the fact that the state Supreme Court simply refused to develop the rules for parental notification that were required for it to be operational.
Then the high court said it finally would develop those procedures. The law has remained under challenge, however, by organizations that don’t want to have a requirement that parents be told before young girls are provided abortions.
The law, subject to certain exceptions, 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. It does not require parental consent, only notice, and it also provides for confidential options for “bypassing” the notice requirement, including expedited and confidential appeals, in cases where a minor has been abused or where a court finds she is mature enough to make her own decision, or it is otherwise in her best interest to proceed without notice, according to officials with the Thomas More Society.
Spokesman Thomas Ciesielka said the state Supreme Court today agreed to decide if the law violates the Illinois State Constitution of 1970.
He said the high court is to address the issue of whether, and to what extent, the Illinois Constitution includes protection for abortion rights. 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 Thomas More Society sought to intervene in the case on behalf of two Illinois state’s attorneys who are given enforcement responsibilities, and who questioned the adequacy of representation of their interests by the office of Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan.
The organization also filed a brief for more than 20 Illinois state’s attorneys as amici curiae on the merits in defense of the Parental Notice Act in the appellate court.
“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,” said Paul Linton, special counsel for the organization.
“Similar laws in other states have been associated with significant declines in the numbers of out-of-wedlock pregnancies, births, and abortions among minors,” he said. “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.”
Pro-life organizations say the absence of enforcement of the law has made Illinois an “abortion dumping ground of the Midwest.”
A coalition including Illinois Citizens for Life, Illinois Federation for Right to Life, the Illinois Right to Life Committee, the Illinois Family Institute, Concerned Women for America, Eagle Forum of Illinois, Orthodox Christians for Life-Chicago, Lutherans for Life, Concerned Christian Americans and the Catholic Conference of Illinois have been battling on behalf of the law.