Illinois legislature votes to repeal parental notification law

By Michelle Martin | Staff writer
Wednesday, November 3, 2021

In the days after the Illinois legislature voted to repeal the state’s parental notification law, Catholic advocates pushed back on the idea that not requiring parents to be told when a minor seeks an abortion would make girls safer.

“The people who put this forth say that this law endangers children,” said Robert Gilligan, executive director of the Catholic Conference of Illinois. “They say it puts children in a dangerous situation if they have abusive parents. That’s why they purport to be doing what they are doing. We don’t agree with that in any way.”

A statement released by the conference reads, in part: “Since 2013, this law has served to keep distressed young girls connected to those who love them the most. The law has also helped to ensure that those who would abuse minor girls cannot then erase the evidence of their crimes in the nearest abortion clinic. …

“Repealing this law defies public support and is contrary to the legal and moral right of parents to care for their children. Today’s vote is and will be a tragedy for many families, young girls and so many unborn children. We pray for the day when every human life may be cherished from conception to natural death.”

The Illinois House voted 62-51 to repeal the law Oct. 27, a day after the Illinois Senate voted 32-22 to repeal it. The vote did not fall strictly along party lines, as some Democrats in both houses joined Republicans in voting no. Gov. J.B. Pritzker, a Democrat from Chicago, has said he will sign the bill, which would then go into effect in June 2022.

The parental notification law, which was passed in 1995, began being enforced in 2013. It requires parents or guardians of girls under 18 to be notified 48 hours in advance of an abortion. It does not require consent, and includes a provision for a judge to bypass the parents if the girl does not feel safe having her parents informed.

Illinois is one of 37 states to have a parental notification or parental consent law for abortion, including all of the states that border Illinois. Parental notification had popular support, Gilligan said, noting that a March poll conducted for Illinois Right to Life found 72% of Illinoisans wanted the law to remain in effect, including a majority of people who identified as pro-choice.

Supporters believe that minors should not be able to get an abortion without at least hearing some adult guidance, Gilligan said, even if they want to bypass their families and go to a judge.

Nearly all of the requests for judicial bypass of parental notification are approved, he said.

“At least now there’s some adult who is now involved in this minor child’s life, so if they are involved in an abusive situation, perhaps the minor could get help,” he said. “We know that teens are impulsive and they do risky things. They need adult guardians, parents, a judge, somebody to talk with. Now there’s no mechanism to do that.”

In many cases, young girls are impregnated by men older than 20, he said, and not requiring parents to be notified when a girl seeks an abortion could allow them to keep those relationships secret.

“Who knows what’s going on in that young minor’s life?” Gilligan said. “She could be being trafficked, she could be being forced to do things she didn’t want to do.”

Dawn Fitzpatrick, senior coordinator for the Office of Human Dignity and Solidarity in the Archdiocese of Chicago, said the parental notification law has value even in families where parents approve of a minor’s decision to get an abortion by fostering communication.

“There’s plenty of parents who might think abortion is a good thing for their daughter, but shouldn’t they know she was asking for one, in case she needs emotional care or physical care afterward?” Fitzpatrick said.

Because Illinois will be the only state in the Midwest that does not require parental notification, it is likely that more girls from other states will travel here to get abortions, Fitzpatrick said.

Fitzpatrick acknowledged the legislature is unlikely to reinstate parental notification in the near future, but said voters should find out how their representatives voted on the repeal, and get in touch with them to share their opinions.

She also said parents must be aware of the change in the law.

“We’ve taken a parental right away from parents,” she said.

“There is an attack on parental rights and people need to be aware of these things,” Gilligan agreed. “What laws should remain in effect that protect parents’ rights and obligations? What is the government in control of? Maybe there should be some kind of awareness campaign out there that would inform parents that this law is in effect. It would always be helpful to encourage conversations with your children and make sure you know what’s going on.”


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