The Illinois Supreme Court has agreed to provide a final resolution to the long-running legal battle over Illinois' parental notification statute. That law, passed by the Illinois Legislature in 1995, requires that an unemancipated minor must notify a parent,
grandparent, or guardian before obtaining a legal abortion.
Paul Linton, special counsel for the Thomas More Society, is optimistic that the Illinois High Court will uphold the law. "The Illinois Supreme Court's action ensures that there will be a prompt resolution of the law's constitutionality. The United States Supreme Court has repeatedly recognized the vital interests that States have in protecting pregnant minors, and the rights of their parents to provide guidance and counsel in this very sensitive area."
Linton points out that similar laws in other states like Missouri have been associated with substantial reductions in the number of out-of-wedlock pregnancies, births, and abortions among minors.
The parental notice law has been in limbo since its passage sixteen years ago due to a series of tangled legal challenges in state and federal court. The law was initially enjoined by a federal district court in 1996 because there was no bypass option in place. The U.S. Supreme Court has said minors must have the option to demonstrate to a judge that they are mature enough to make their own decision, and thus "bypass" the law.
However, the Illinois Supreme Court for years refused to issue judicial rules establishing the procedures for a minor's "bypass" appeal to the court. Illinois' High
Court finally relented in 2006, and formalized the judicial bypass procedure. Three years later, a federal court of appeals ruled that the law was constitutional, being fully consistent with longstanding U.S. Supreme Court decisions on parental consent and parental notification.
Yet pro-abortion forces refused to give up the battle, and decided to challenge the law on state constitutional grounds. A Circuit Court in Cook County upheld the law, but an Illinois appeals court reversed that ruling. The Illinois Supreme Court, which forestalled the law's implementation for years, will now have the final say.
The fate of the Illinois parental notice law is of great significance to the state of Missouri. For many years, teenagers from eastern Missouri have evaded
Missouri's parental consent requirement by traveling to Illinois clinics to obtain abortions. This problem has been particularly acute in the St. Louis area, where minors
have often traveled to Hope Clinic in Granite City to obtain abortions without their parents' knowledge.
Missouri has had great success in reducing the number of abortions performed in our state since the 1973 Roe v Wade
decision. A total of 20,204 abortions were performed in Missouri in 1984, the worst year on record. Only 6,881 abortions were performed in Missouri abortion clinics in 2009. Yet state records show that an estimated 6,331 abortions were performed on Missouri women in that same year by out-of-state abortion clinics, comprising a startling 47% of Missouri resident abortions.
The exodus of abortion-minded women from Missouri to out-of-state providers has been accelerated by the closure and consolidation of Missouri abortion clinics. There are only two clinics in our state now providing abortions, Reproductive Health Services in St. Louis and Planned Parenthood in Columbia (on an intermittent basis.) Women in western Missouri typically travel to the Planned Parenthood clinic in Overland Park, Kansas. Many women in northern Missouri travel to Iowa, and many women in southern Missouri travel to clinics in Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kentucky, and Tennessee.
The state of Illinois has long had a sorry reputation for slipshod, poorly regulated abortion clinics, particularly in the Chicago area. Chicago pro-life activist Joe Scheidler deplores the fact that Illinois has become a
"dumping ground" for the unborn children of pregnant minors. "All you have to do is look at the license plates of the cars in the parking lots of Illinois abortion clinics, and you realize how many out-of state teens are seeking abortions."
Mailee Smith of Americans United for Life welcomed the Illinois Supreme Court's decision to accept the case. "Illinois lawmakers have taken an important stand on behalf of parental rights. When a child is considering a potential chemical or surgical abortion, the parents have a right to know. Parental involvement decreases both teen pregnancy and teen birth rates, and it is tragic that legal wrangling has prevented parental involvement in a situation where it is so essential."