Illinois Senate to vote on repeal of Parental Notification of Abortion law, advocates hope members oppose

Hands off the right for parents to know protesters at the Illinois State Capitol.
Hands off the right for parents to know protesters at the Illinois State Capitol.(WGEM)
Updated: Oct. 26, 2021 at 7:43 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD (WGEM) - Illinois Senate Democrats could vote to repeal the Parental Notification of Abortion Act Tuesday night. The new Youth Health and Safety Act passed out of the Senate Executive Committee on a 9-6-1 vote.

Meanwhile, advocates and religious leaders want lawmakers to turn down the effort to repeal the PNA law. The 1995 law took effect in 2013 after an uphill battle in the courts. This legislation requires medical providers to contact an adult at least 48 hours before minors seek an abortion.

Illinois has become one of the most liberal states for access to abortion. However, some feel this is the final straw.

“Parental notification is an important checkpoint that’s not really even about abortion. It’s about the rights of parents to best help and raise their children,” said Mary-Louise Hengesbaugh, Chair of Girls Health First.

This isn’t the first time Democrats have tried to repeal the parental notification law. Although, some advocates hope it’s the last attempt since they want parents to stay involved in that decision.

Groups pushing to repeal this law say it puts young girls in danger if they must speak with abusive parents. They also note girls go through a traumatic experience if they go in front of a judge for approval. But advocates in Springfield Tuesday said parents should always have a voice.

“Hands off the right for parents to know”

They marched to the capitol with a clear message: Hands off the right for parents to know. Some in the small group drove from Chicago to ensure their lawmakers knew they wanted this law kept in place.

Advocates note sexual predators and traffickers often use abortion to cover up their crimes. That’s why organizations like Illinois Right to life support the judicial bypass portion of the current law.

“If a young woman goes before a judge, that judge is not out to get her,” said Amy Gehrke, Executive Director of Illinois Right to Life. “That judge is there to help her and to determine if there’s something nefarious going on that she needs help with.”

Gehrke also said a recent study found 72% of Illinoisans support parental notice. The latest push to repeal the law comes in response to the controversial Texas abortion ban.

Democrats, Planned Parenthood fighting for girls in unsafe situations

Sponsors and advocates fighting for the repeal say many young girls have situations where it is unsafe or dangerous to tell their families. Some also note girls may not have a relationship with their parents at all.

Brigid Leahy, Senior Public Policy Director for Planned Parenthood of Illinois, said younger patients could access several health care services without a law forcing them to involve a parent.

“In fact, when it comes to pregnancy, a young person can independently and confidentially make all decisions related to prenatal care and childbirth. This includes decisions around surgical procedures like a caesarean,” Leahy said. “It’s only when a younger patient decides to have an abortion that Illinois law forces parental involvement.”

Republican gubernatorial candidate and state senator Darren Bailey (R-Xenia) calls the repeal effort absurd.

“To allow a 12-year-old girl to decide on her own or somebody else’s advice other than her parents as to whether or not she should be able to receive an abortion or not, it makes no sense. It’s just pure evil,” Bailey said.

Paprocki: “Why are we keeping parents in the dark?”

Some church leaders also took a stand against the Democratic proposal Tuesday afternoon. Bishop Thomas Paprocki urged lawmakers to vote against the repeal and keep parental rights in place.

“They have the primary responsibility for the best interest of their children, not the government,” Paprocki said. “Why are we keeping parents in the dark about something that is so profoundly impacting their minor children?”

Meanwhile, Democrats filed their bill to repeal the PNA law Tuesday afternoon. Sen. Elgie Sims (D-Chicago) could bring it to the Senate floor for a vote later tonight.

Gehrke said it’s still clear several Democratic lawmakers are undecided on this issue. She also noted that Democrats had the opportunity to call a previous version of this bill for a vote earlier this spring.

“This is an issue that really transcends just abortion,” Gehrke said. “This goes to the rights of parents to be involved in the decisions of their minor daughters’ health care.”

Leahy also disagrees with the assessment that the PNA law addresses sex trafficking. She also stressed that sex trafficking is a serious issue that everyone should work to address.

“There is no evidence that this law has had any impact on reducing sex trafficking during the eight years it’s been in effect,” Leahy said. “What we do know is that for those young people who have been forced into court, this law acts as a barrier to timely access to health care and counseling. The experience can be stressful and traumatizing for youth for whom it would be harmful to involve a parent.”

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