Parental Notice Finally a Reality in Illinois

In 1995 the Illinois Legislature passed the Parental Notice of Abortion Act. Today, after 18 years, the Illinois Supreme Court issued a unanimous ruling upholding it.

This parental notice bill has a long and convoluted history. Actually, Illinois had previously passed a parental consent bill in 1977. But it was found unconstitutional.

The legislature tried again in 1983, passing a parental notice bill. But it too was found unconstitutional.

Finally in 1995, the state passed a bill based on other state laws that had passed muster and were in effect. Pro-abortion Republican Governor Jim Edgar signed the bill into law, but the ACLU immediately challenged it due to what it claimed were unclear rules for the judicial bypass provision.

The Illinois Supreme Court never got around to issuing the necessary rules, so the parental notice law lingered in limbo. And in those 18 years, Illinois statistical records show that 67,928 girls under the age of 18 have had abortions in the state.

In 2004 attorney Paul Linton, special counsel with the Thomas More Society Pro-Life Law Center, came up with a strategy to nudge the Court into spelling out the judicial bypass rules and putting the law into effect. The attorneys met with Joe Birkett, the pro-life State’s Attorney of DuPage County. Birkett agreed to petition the Illinois Supreme Court to adopt the rules required by the 1995 Act. The court did just that in 2006.

Still the law did not go into effect. In 2007, the state’s pro-abortion Attorney General, Lisa Madigan, petitioned federal Judge David Coar to lift the permanent injunction which had been issued 11 years earlier. Judge Coar denied her petition.

In the fall of 2009, the Thomas More Society filed a writ of mandamus, urging that the law be enforced, and in September of that year, it was enforced for the first time ever—but only for six (6) hours.

Once again, the ACLU intervened and convinced a judge to put a temporary restraining order on the law preventing its enforcement. This time Lisa Madigan joined forces with the ACLU, arguing that the Illinois State Constitution protects the fundamental right to abortion even though the constitution was penned in 1970—three years before Roe v. Wade.

The Thomas More Society then filed a “Friend of the Court” brief, authored by Paul Linton, on behalf of over twenty Illinois State’s Attorneys defending parental notice. Linton also presented oral arguments before the Illinois Supreme Court in September 2012.

Illinois has been the Midwest’s dumping ground for underage abortions, as the only state in the entire area with no restrictions on abortions for minors. Sidewalk counselors have, for years, regularly observed out-of-state license plates as patients arrived at clinics in the Chicago area, as well as downstate.

Unfortunately, in today’s opinion the Court noted that Illinois’ 1970 Constitution guarantees the right to an abortion, in spite of the fact that the current constitution was written and adopted prior to the U. S. Supreme Court’s sweeping reversal of all abortion laws. This may prove to be a stumbling block down the road as we strive to end abortion not only in Illinois, but in the nation.

The law requires that doctors who perform abortions notify a teen girl’s parent or guardian at least 48 hours before the procedure. It remains to be seen how the state will make sure that abortion clinics and abortionists abide by the law. Those of us who are sidewalk counselors will be watching carefully.

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