Illinois Senate Rolls Back Illinois’ Parental Notification Act

Spurred in part by Texas’ new restrictions on abortions, Illinois legislators on Tuesday took a step toward moving in the other direction, when the Illinois Senate voted to roll back a law that requires parents and guardians be notified before their minor child can have an abortion.

Illinois’ Parental Notification Act has been on the books since 1995 but did not go into effect until 2013 due to legal complications.

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The law does not require parents give permission, but they must be notified. The state has a system that allow minors to instead have a confidential hearing before a judge to bypass needing to tell their parents.

The ACLU of Illinois said that is has represented more than 575 young people in the past eight years who sought a judicial bypass.

“Ending this barrier for young people in Illinois is critical,” the ACLU said. “We are especially pleased that a majority of senators saw through the argument that PNA (Parental Notification Act) is not about abortion, only about parental ‘rights.’ This is a fallacy. After all, the law only requires that young people share their decision about an abortion, not the decision to parent or place a baby for adoption.  This has always been about deterring young people from access to abortion care, and nothing else.”

But state Sen. Sue Rezin, R-Morris, called the bill a “travesty for the mental health of our children.”

Critics say Illinois has laws that require parental permission for a minor to get a tattoo, piercing or to be given medicine in school, and a short time ago – in 2019 – passed a law moving the legal age to buy cigarettes from 18 to 21 due out of the belief that younger adults lack the maturity to make decisions with long-term ramifications.

Republicans also raised concerns about what would happen should there be a medical emergency during an abortion, if parents didn’t know the procedure was even happening.

The repeal’s sponsor, Sen. Elgie Sims, D-Chicago said young people make up less than 10% of abortions in Illinois.

He said there is no legal obligation for parents know of other medical decisions surrounding a pregnancy, such as having the child or getting a C-section.

“The only decision when it relates to pregnancy, the only decision that a parent has to be involved in, is required to be involved in, is if the child choses to have an abortion,” Sims said.

He called the notion raised by critics that repealing the notification law is a slap in the face to parents “offensive.”

“The discussion is about ensuring that young people have access to healthy family communications,” Sims said.

The measure now goes to the House, where its fate is less certain.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker favors repealing the law, and Democrats hold majorities in both chambers sizeable enough that they can pass bills over Republican opposition. Even so, some Democrats are reticent to repeal the law, particularly as parental rights have reached a crossroads, with debates over COVID-19 masking mandates in schools.

Follow Amanda Vinicky on Twitter: @AmandaVinicky

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