The Illinois Senate voted along partisan lines Tuesday to repeal the state law that requires parents of minors seeking abortions to be notified at least 48 hours before the procedure.
The 32-22 vote in the Senate, with five lawmakers not voting, sends the bill to toss out the Parental Notice of Abortion Act to the Democratic-controlled House.
“This is a necessary proposal to move our state forward, to protect our young people, often those who cannot protect themselves,” state Sen. Elgie Sims, D-Chicago, sponsor of the repeal, said during a 45-minute debate on the Senate floor.
He and other supporters of the repeal said parental notification is unnecessary and that court procedures required for females 17 and younger who want abortions but don’t want their parents notified are daunting and stressful and sometimes lead to adolescents carrying an unwanted pregnancy to term.
Opponents of the repeal, including religious groups and Springfield Catholic Bishop Thomas John Paprocki, said the repeal would disrespect the rights of parents to care and guide their children and remove a safeguard preventing sexual predators and sex traffickers from forcing their victims to get abortions.
All Republicans in the Democratic-controlled Senate voted against the repeal, contained in an amendment to House Bill 370, while four Democrats voted “no,” and five other Democrats didn’t vote.
Among those voting against the repeal were Sens. Steve McClure, R-Springfield; Jill Tracy, R-Quincy; Sally Turner, R-Beason; Dave Syverson, R-Cherry Valley; and Win Stoller, R-Germantown Hills.
Among those voting for the repeal were Sen. Doris Turner, D-Springfield; David Koehler, D-Peoria; and Steve Stadelman, D-Rockford.
No Democrats, other than Sims, spoke during the debate, while several Republicans stated their objections.
Sen. Terri Bryant, R-Murphysboro, blamed Gov. JB Pritzker, a Democrat, for the repeal effort.
“Time and time again, this governor has spit in the faces of families in this state,” Bryant said. “He has shown his total and complete disregard for the rights of the family unit, and now he’s at it again, but he’s using this body.”
A spokeswoman for Pritzker, who has said he supports the repeal, didn’t respond to a request for comment. Pritzker said during a news conference Wednesday in Springfield that he supports a repeal but the bill being debated was not one he proposed.
Sen. Sue Rezin, R-Morris, said it doesn’t make sense for parents to be cut out of the process when their minor daughters seek abortions, but parental approval is required for minors wanting to get a vaccine shot or ear piercing.
“It’s a slap in the face to parents who want to be a support system for their child,” she said.
In Illinois, reproductive health procedures for minors such as pelvic exams, as well as pelvic exams, prenatal care, vaccinations during pregnancy and medical services during the delivery of a child don’t require parental notification or consent.
The parental notification law, initially passed in 1995 and signed into law when the General Assembly was controlled by Republicans and the governor at the time, Jim Edgar, was a Republican.
Court challenges prevented the law from taking effect until 2013. The repeal would be effective June 1, 2022.
The text of the bill says Illinois “again is called to be an example for the nation of reproductive health care while also working to establish healthy family communications, protecting the health and safety of youth including those who are pregnant and parenting, and investing in individuals throughout their lives.”
Paprocki said preserving the parental notification law “is a matter of parental rights and the best interests of children.”
Minors accounted for 1,092, or 2.5%, of the 42,441 abortions performed in Illinois in 2018, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.
Supporters of the repeal said debate about the Texas law making most abortions illegal heightened awareness of the need to preserve abortion rights in Illinois, especially as the U.S. Supreme Court considers striking down the 1973 Roe vs. Wade decision.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois cited an analysis by Hope Clinic for Women, an abortion provider in Granite City, indicating 85% of minors seeking abortions involved a parent in their decision-making process before the notification law took effect.
The remaining 15% had legitimate concerns about notifying their parents, according to bill supporters.
Emily Werth, an ACLU staff attorney, said ACLU attorneys and pro bono lawyers around the state have represented about 575 minors for free in the judicial-bypass process since 2013, and only one minor was denied judicial bypass by a judge.
But Werth said it can be terrifying for a minor, in a confidential court hearing, to tell a judge who doesn’t know the minor the reasons she doesn’t want her family finding out she wants an abortion.
“It’s not simply filling out a form at a courthouse,” Werth told a Senate committee before the full Senate vote. “The judicial-bypass process creates nothing but fear and anxiety.”
Minors who don’t want to involve their families in the abortion process often have friends and other people to draw upon for support, Werth said.
Those minors, she said, can face physical and emotional abuse and loss of financial support if their families are informed of the minors’ desire for an abortion, she said.
An unknown number of minors are unaware of the judicial-bypass option, unable to get out of school and get to court, or are forced by their families to carry pregnancies to term, Werth said.
Hannah Baity, a youth organizer for the Illinois Caucus for Adolescent Health who supports the repeal, told the Senate committee, “Young people are more than capable of making decisions that affect their futures.”
But Paprocki said parental-involvement laws “exist because they protect children from making serious, life-changing decisions that they are not equipped to make. These laws exist to protect the rights of parents to fulfill the duty that God has entrusted to them and that no government can take away.”
Sims said many minors don’t have good relationships with their parents, and the notification law isn’t needed to promote those conversations.
The bill, he said, would create the bipartisan Youth Health and Safety Advisory Working Group to promote productive conversations between parents and youth and “identify existing and needed resources for pregnant and parenting youth and youth seeking reproductive healthcare.”
But Tracy said the repeal represents an “attack on parental rights” when a “small number of girls” use the judicial-bypass system.
Bryant said the repeal would benefit sexual predators and adults who use minors for sex trafficking because parents wouldn’t be notified if abused minors seek abortions.
Sims, however, said experts in fighting sex trafficking believe there is no evidence the parental notification law helps to catch sex traffickers and sexual predators.
He pointed to a letter from various groups fighting sexual assault and exploitation that says repealing the Parental Notice of Abortion Act in Illinois “would not result in more child trafficking. It would also not impact the ability for child trafficking victims to be identified.”
Molly Malone Rumley, an activist with Illinois Right to Life, said a public-opinion poll of 600 Illinois registered voters in March indicated 72% of voters believe a parent or guardian should be notified if a minor is seeking an abortion.
Those polled were asked, “If a minor under age 18 is seeking an abortion, do you think the law should require her parent or guardian to be notified before the procedure?”
On the other hand, Personal PAC, an abortion rights group based in Chicago, released results of another statewide poll of voters in May that showed 46% want the parental notification law repealed, 29% support keeping it and 25% are not sure.
Among women polled, 51% want the law repealed, and 26% want it to remain.
This was the poll question: “Most young women life in supportive and loving homes, but an Illinois law forces a small number of young women who live in homes where there is violence and sexual assault to tell a violent parent she needs an abortion. Do you support this law that forces young women to tell their parents they need an abortion, or do you think it should be repealed?”
A Personal PAC news release said the repeal of the parental notification law is supported by a “wide plurality” of Illinois voters and “mirrors the political adage that ‘smart policy is smart politics.’”
The poll indicated 48% of Democratic voters are less likely to vote for a state lawmaker who votes to keep the law. Among Republicans, 29% are less likely to vote for a state lawmaker who doesn’t support the repeal.
Personal PAC president Terry Cosgrove said the notification law was designed to reduce the number of abortions.
Supporters of the law have said they welcome the possibility that it can lead to fewer abortions.
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