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Illinois Supreme Court ends challenges to abortion law

Updated: July 11, 2013 12:12PM



SPRINGFIELD — The Illinois Supreme Court Thursday moved to put finality on a unenforced abortion parental notification law, determining the long-disputed 1995 law is constitutional.

The law, one of the cornerstones of all-Republican rule in Springfield during a brief period in the mid-1990s, requires doctors to inform the parents of girls age 17 and under that their daughter wishes to obtain an abortion.

“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,” Justice Anne Burke wrote in the court’s majority opinion.

“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,” Burke wrote.

Her opinion also cited a string of U.S. Supreme Court cases from across the country, validating other states’ abortion parental notification laws.

“We are persuaded by the reasoning contained in the Supreme Court cases which have found parental notification statutes constitutional under federal substantive due process and equal protection law,” Burke wrote.

“We conclude, therefore, that our Parental Notice Act furthers a ‘constitutionally permissible end’ by encouraging an unmarried, pregnant minor to seek the help and advice of a parent or other adult family member in making the very important decision whether or not to bear a child,” she said.

The court held the challenge by the Hope Clinic for Women should be dismissed and that the state law has to be enforced unless the U.S. Supreme Court determines otherwise. The ACLU originally sued to block the 1995 law, and it has been entangled in state and federal courts since then.

Abortion-rights advocates, who have claimed that young women should have the right to make medical decisions involving their bodies, reacted with regret to Thursday’s ruling.

“We are disappointed by the Illinois Supreme Court’s decision to dismiss a lawsuit challenging the Illinois Parental Notice of Abortion Act of 1995,” said Carol Brite, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Illinois. “While we believe the Illinois Parental Notice of Abortion Act puts the health and safety of teens at unnecessary risk, Planned Parenthood of Illinois is committed to doing everything we can to make this new process as easy as possible for teens if the law goes into effect.”

Abortion opponents have long maintained that parents should have a right to know whether their children were obtaining abortions.

A leading anti-abortion voice involved in the long legal struggle praised Thursday’s decision and predicted it would ripple into neighboring states from which teens would come to Illinois for abortions.

The reason for that is that Illinois has been the only state in the Midwest without some form of parental notification or consent law, allowing minors to obtain abortions here without adhering to their home-state abortion laws.

“This is a huge victory for the rights of parents not only in Illinois but in all Midwestern states,” said Tom Brejcha, president and chief counsel of the Thomas More Society.



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