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Illinois Supreme Court Upholds Law Requiring Parental Consent for Minors’ Abortions

8bfb1f5bb1Illinois’ Parental Notice of Abortion Act, requiring doctors to notify a young woman’s parents 48 hours before she obtains an abortion, was originally enacted in 1995, but has never been enforced until now due to a series of court challenges. However, after the Illinois Supreme Court’s recent decision1 upholding the law, it went into effect on August 15.

The National Center for Youth Law (NCYL) and 10 other organizations, including the National Association of Social Workers and the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law, had joined in an amicus brief filed July 18, 2012, urging the Illinois Supreme Court to affirm the decision of the Appellate Court, which declared the Act unconstitutional. Amici submitted a research-based brief containing social science data to assist the Court in understanding the lives of the young women who experience unintended pregnancies. The brief addressed why the two exceptions to parental notification—(1) declaration of abuse or neglect by the minor and physician certification of receipt of the declaration and (2) judicial waiver of parental notice—fail, as a practical matter, to provide viable alternatives to teens who make the informed decision not to notify a parent.2

On July 11, 2013, the Supreme Court of Illinois ruled that the Act is constitutional on its face, permitting the Act to be implemented in the state based on four major holdings.  First, the court found that the right to an abortion is based on the State Constitution of Illinois’s due process clause, not its privacy clause. Second, while the Act interferes with a woman’s expected privacy of her medical information, the Court held such interference was reasonable and not unduly burdensome because parental notice advances the state interest of ensuring that minors are well-informed regarding abortion decisions and the Act’s exceptions, such as for a medical emergency, reduces the burden on the abortion right. Third, the Court noted that the U.S. Supreme Court has held that parental notification is permissible under the U.S. Constitution’s due process and equal protection clauses, and the Court held that there is no state-law reason to find otherwise. Finally, the Court rejected plaintiffs’ argument that the Act gave preference to childbirth over abortion and so found no unconstitutional gender discrimination. Lorie Chaiten of the Illinois ACLU commented that the court’s decision upheld the Act “in a manner that really puts young women’s health and safety at risk. We are enormously disappointed.”3

Following the decision, the law went into effect on August 15. The ACLU of Illinois has set up a special website for the “Illinois Judicial Bypass Coordination Project.” They have a hotline (1-877-44-BYPASS) available to provide free, confidential assistance, and to connect youth to specially trained, free lawyers to help them with a judicial bypass if they need one. They also have a downloadable fact sheet and youth guide, printed materials upon request for providers or organizations serving youth, and answers to common questions about judicial bypass.

  1. Hope Clinic for Women, Ltd. v. Flores, 372 Ill. Dec. 255 (July 11, 2013).
  2. For more on this and other similar amicus briefs, see the recent Youth Law News article on “The Youth Perspective on Laws Requiring Parental Involvement in the Decision to Have an Abortion”, at:…
  3. Illinois abortion ruling paves way for parental notification law, ABC7 News, WLS-TV, Chicago, IL, July 11, 2013, at:…