July 12, 2013 — The Illinois Supreme Court on Thursday upheld the constitutionality of a 1995 state law requiring doctors to notify the parents of a girl under age 17 at least two days before performing an abortion, the Washington Post's "Post Politics" reports.
The ruling clears the way for Illinois to enforce the law for the first time (Tam, "Post Politics," Washington Post, 7/11). The law will take effect 35 days after the ruling, according to Lorie Chaiten, director of the Reproductive Rights Project at the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois, which filed the suit.
The law allows exceptions to the parental notification requirement in cases of abuse, emergencies or when a minor is accompanied to the physician office by an adult who is entitled to the notice.
Justice Anne Burke in the majority opinion wrote, "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" (Harris, Bloomberg Businessweek, 7/11).
Burke added that 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" ("Post Politics," Washington Post, 7/11).
Abortion-rights supporters said the law could harm teens who might not feel safe telling their parents about a pregnancy or abortion. In a statement, Planned Parenthood of Illinois said that in "an ideal world" all parents would be involved and engaged with their children's health care but that "in some cases, safe and open communication is not possible." The group added that while it disagrees with the ruling, it would do everything possible "to make this new process as easy as possible for teens if the law goes into effect" ("Post Politics," Washington Post, 7/11).
ACLU's Chaiten said in a statement that while most young women do seek guidance from a parent or adult when making abortion decisions, "those who don't, choose not to for good reason," such as the risk of emotional or physical abuse, being kicked out of their homes or being forced to continue the pregnancy (Bloomberg Businessweek, 7/11).
Supporters of the law praised the ruling. Robert Gilligan, executive director of the Catholic Conference of Illinois, said the ruling allows "parents across the state and the Midwest" to "breathe a sigh of relief" because they will be notified of their child's intent to have an abortion and can "safeguard their lives and those of the unborn" ("Post Politics," Washington Post, 7/11).