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For nearly two decades there’s been a law on the books in Illinois to protect minors from abortion practitioners by requiring that a parent or guardian be notified of a pending procedure 48 hours before it happened.
Finally, it’s about to be enforced.
That’s after the state Supreme Court today ruled unanimously that the law does not violate the Illinois Constitution.
“This is a huge victory for the rights of parents not only in Illinois but in all Midwestern states,” said Tom Brejcha, president of the Thomas More Society, which had argued on behalf of the law.
The state’s Parental Notice of Abortion Act was adopted in 1995, but never enforced until now. It requires a parent or guardian to be notified at least 48 hours before a child under the age of 18 undergoes an abortion.
The Thomas More Society said the decision represents the successful culmination of an almost nine-year effort on the part of constitutional scholar Paul Linton to have the law enforced.
Linton met with Illinois pro-life leaders at the end of 2004 to develop a strategy for reviving the parental notice law, which had languished in legal limbo for many years because the Illinois Supreme Court at the time the law was adopted in 1995 simply refused to adopt a needed rule for confidential “bypass” hearings and expedited appeals for minor girls who were either deemed “mature” or made credible claims of family abuse.
Because of the state court’s failure, federal courts held the law to be unconstitutional and enjoined its enforcement, prompting Linton and other pro-life leaders to enlist then-DuPage County State’s Attorney Joe Birkett to petition for the court’s action.
The American Civil Liberties Union had battled the law on federal constitutional grounds, and lost its case. Then the same group brought a state court lawsuit alleging that the law violated the Illinois Constitution.
That effort now also has been rebuffed.
“We find that, while a minor clearly has an expectation of privacy in her medical information, which includes the fact of her pregnancy, the intrusion on the minor’s privacy occasioned by the act is not unreasonable. The state has an interest in ensuring that a minor is sufficiently mature and well-informed to make the difficult decision whether to have an abortion,” the ruling said.
It continued, “To advance that interest, it is reasonable for the state to encourage an unemancipated minor under the age of 18 who wishes to have an abortion to seek the support of a parent or other interested adult, or to require her to prove her maturity by obtaining a judicial waiver in a waiver process that is expedited and confidential.”
The judges found the law “is not unduly burdensome since it requires the minor to give notice to only one legally responsible adult … and provides for an exception to the notice requirement when a medical emergency exists and there is insufficient time to provide the required notice.
“We agree .. that the act is crafted narrowly to achieve its aim of promoting the minor’s best interests through parental consultation. Accordingly, we find the act is reasonable and, therefore, does not violate our [constitution].”
The Thomas More Society reported the ACLU’s repeated challenges to the constitutionality of the Illinois parental notice law had resulted in Illinois becoming a “fugitive” abortion state – a “dumping ground” for out-of-state minors’ abortions.
Its report said until now, Illinois was the only Midwest state without a parental notice or consent law in effect, and that allowed thousands of abortions to be performed in Illinois on non-resident minors who crossed state lines, often accompanied by the adults who impregnated them, to evade their own state’s parental notice or consent laws.
Casey Mattox, senior counsel for the Alliance Defending Freedom noted that the law now is scheduled to take effect in five weeks.
“The well-being of young women is more important than the bottom line of abortionists. All this law has sought to do since 1995 is to uphold the duty and desire of parents to protect their own children rather than allow them to be taken advantage of by others,” he said.
“As the Illinois Supreme Court unanimously found, the law constitutionally encourages ‘an unmarried, pregnant minor to seek the help and advice of a parent or other adult family member in making the very important decision whether or not to bear a child.’ The ACLU kept this law from protecting women for more than 17 years, but that is now over.”