Life Matters —The Newsletter of the Respect Life Office of the Diocese of Rockford
By Patricia Pitkus Bainbridge
Director, Respect Life Office
In 1995, the Illinois State General Assembly passed the Parental Notice of Abortion Act—a bill requiring an abortionist to notify a minor girl’s parent, grandparent, or legal guardian before committing an abortion. Then-Gov. Jim Edgar, despite holding a pro-abortion ideology, signed the bill into law.
Unfortunately, the law never took effect due to the refusal of the Illinois Supreme Court to promulgate the “rules” for judicial bypass. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Illinois quickly filed suit to prevent enforcement of the law and U.S. District Court Judge Paul Plunkett issued a permanent injunction order on February 9, 1996 making the law unenforceable.
If the Illinois Supreme Court had stayed out of politics and just fulfilled its responsibility under the Illinois constitution, parents would have been given the opportunity to at least be told that their minor daughter was scheduled for abortion. It was the Court’s duty to promulgate the “rules” and it refused to do so—bending instead to political pressure from the pro-abortion crowd.
The Chicago Tribune (which supports legalized abortion) recently admitted in an editorial that the Court “did indeed allow politics to creep into the courtroom . . . The court didn’t rule on the constitutionality of the law. But by refusing to write the rules, the court killed the law: A federal judge ruled that it could not be enforced without the rules. The state court sat on its hands; in effect, it vetoed a law supported by the governor and a majority of the House and Senate.”
Eleven years later, minor girls from surrounding states with parental consent or notification law(Wisconsin, Iowa, Missouri, Kentucky, and Indiana) circumvent those laws by traveling to Illinois for their abortions. The ACLU of Illinois (a rabidly pro-abortion group) admits, “The number of women traveling to Illinois for abortions has risen in recent years as result of . . . mandatory parental involvement laws in other states and other restrictive legislation.”
In the state of Illinois, girls old enough to get pregnant (that could be as young as 12) are considered old enough to procure an abortion without parental knowledge.
A recent editorial in the Rockford Register Star (another supporter of legalized abortion) opined, “In 1997, more than 4,500 minors crossed the state line to get an abortion in Illinois, bypassing state law and bypassing the moral authority of their parents. That’s the latest record available, but we believe it’s a relevant number because abortions tend to be underreported.” Couple this with a recent editorial from the Chicago Tribune which stated, “many people, including many people who support abortion rights, believe that a parental-notification law is simply common sense” and you can see why so many organizations and individuals have been outraged by the inaction of the 1995 Illinois Supreme Court.
New Court—New Opportunity
Last summer—with assistance from the legal advocacy group, the Thomas More Society— a coalition of organizations including the Catholic Conference of Illinois joined an Illinois state attorney in his request that the Court reconsider the “rules.”
It didn’t take long for the Court to respond. On September 20, 2006 the Illinois Supreme Court finally issued the rules for the judicial bypass procedure. Parents will have to wait for the state’s attorney general to ask Judge Plunkett to lift his 1996 court order that will then allow the Parental Notice of Abortion Act to take effect.
What will happen if the law takes effect?
If the court order is lifted and the parental notification law takes effect, an abortionist will be required to tell a parent, grandparent or legal guardian at least 48 hours before a girl under the age of 18 procures an abortion. Parents will not have to give consent, but at least they will be aware of what their daughter is planning and hopefully they will be able to convince her that there are life affirming choices that she can make.
As with most parental involvement laws, the Illinois law provides an exception for “medical emergencies” or if the minor has been sexually or physically abused by a parent. There is a provision for judicial bypass whereby a judge may waive notice “if the minor is sufficiently mature or if notification is not in the minor’s best interest.”
It is not a great law, but it is the best we have—for now. It does have the potential to prevent young girls from being pressured into to having abortions by those who really have no lasting interest in their well-being. Minors need to be protected in many areas, but particularly with a decision as serious as abortion. The abortion decision can have lasting emotional consequences as well as the possibility of physical complications. Parents must not be kept in the dark about such critical decisions.
Pro-Abortion forces respond
The rules were barely printed before the pro-abortion forces began their campaign to assure that parents will have no say in a young girl’s decision to abort her unborn child. Filed in the Illinois House on October 2, 2006 “The Adolescent Health Care Safety Act,” would repeal the Parental Notice of Abortion Act. The act “Provides that a person may not intentionally perform an abortion on a minor or on an incompetent person unless 48 hours’ notice has been given to a specified adult family member or a member of the clergy.”
What makes this new act unique is that it casts a much wider net to include any family member (siblings, step-siblings, aunts and uncles) age 18 or older to act as an “authority” for the minor girl. In addition, members of the clergy, social workers, psychologists, nurses, and physicians would also be included in that wider net. It is not far fetched to imagine an older boyfriend posing as a teen’s “uncle.” And let’s not forget some abortion facilities have their own “clergy.”
David E. Smith, executive director of the Illinois Family Institute, responded to the proposed act by explaining, “There’s no compelling state interest to modify the existing law. This bill serves the interests of the radical abortion industry in Illinois—not girls nor the parents who love them.”
Pray and Act
It is my hope that parents will pray for their children daily and that they will convey to them that while there are expectations for chaste behavior, parents love their children unconditionally. If a young girl makes wrong choices and becomes pregnant, she needs the love and support of her family. While it will not be easy, life is always the right choice. Circumstances—no matter how dire they appear—do not change the fact that human life is precious at every stage.
A pregnant teen is usually frightened. On the advice of her boyfriend or “counselor” at an abortion facility, she might be led to believe that abortion is her only option. Deirdre McQuaid, pro-life spokeswoman for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops writes, “Secret abortions undermine parents’ ability to care for their children in crisis and put young girls at particular risk both physically and emotionally . . . Abortion does not solve an adolescent’s problems, but instead often compounds her fears, anxiety and sense of isolation.”
Better than the provision of law is the love and support of parents. With their love, support, and counsel, she may see that although her sexual activity was wrong and pregnancy is not what she wanted, she can carry her baby to term and place him or her with a loving family.
Parents also need to let their elected representatives know that, at minimum, they want the Parental Notice of Abortion Act. The Adolescent Health Care Safety Act should be rejected. Call or write your state representative or senator and tell them that parents should not be left in the dark regarding a minor’s abortion— a decision that will impact the rest of her life.