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Watch now: Repeal of abortion notification law passes Illinois Senate, faces hurdles in House

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Bishop Thomas Paprocki of the Diocese of Springfield urges lawmakers not to repeal the Parental Notice of Abortion Act. Lawmakers are considering repealing the measure during their fall veto session.

SPRINGFIELD — Efforts to repeal the Parental Notice of Abortion Act, one of the few remaining pro-life measures on the books in Illinois, moved forward in the state legislature Tuesday, but hurdles remain.

The measure, which would repeal the 1995 law that requires an abortion provider give an adult family member at least 48 hours notice before the procedure is performed on a girl under the age of 18, passed the Illinois Senate 32-22. It now heads to the Illinois House. 

"This is a necessary proposal to move our state forward to protect our young people, often those who cannot protect themselves," said state Sen. Elgie Simms, D-Chicago, the bill's sponsor. 

However, there were still doubts the legislation would have enough support to eventually pass the House as even some pro-choice lawmakers in that chamber expressed reservations about moving forward.

Several downstate House Democrats said they had "no comment" on the legislation when asked by Lee Enterprises. State Rep. Carol Ammons, D-Urbana, a more progressive lawmaker, told WCIA-TV that "a lot of our members are not sold that this is the thing that we need to do yet."

Faith leaders and pro-life activists also descended upon the State Capitol urging lawmakers not to repeal the legislation, which went into effect in 2013 following years tied up in court.

Though opponents were united in their pro-life views, many said even before getting to the abortion issue, they believe the repeal legislation drives a wedge between daughters and their parents. 

The PNA requires parental notification, not consent. And girls in fear of their safety can seek a court waiver from the requirement, known as "judicial bypass." 

“Essentially, it is not even really a religious issue, it is a matter of parental rights and the best interests of children,” said Bishop Thomas Paprocki of the Diocese of Springfield. “Parental rights should be protected in law, especially when it comes to a procedure that can have real physical and emotional consequences.”

Paprocki was among a coalition of 50 faith leaders who were lobbying lawmakers Tuesday afternoon. They were also joined by a few dozen activists from Illinois Right to Life, a pro-life organization.

Paprocki called the law “incoherent and unjust,” noting that there are several laws on the books that require minors to receive parental consent in matters considered less serious.

“Illinois law bans minors from tanning, buying lottery tickets, buying cigarettes and serving as a military,” Paprocki said. “Illinois law requires parental consent for minors to get tattoos or body piercings.”

“These laws exist because they protect children from making serious life-changing decisions that they are not yet equipped to make,” he continued. “These laws exist to protect the rights of parents to fulfill the duty that God has entrusted to them and that no government can take away.”

However, proponents of the effort say that the notification law is "dangerous and unnecessary" by delaying health care for girls, who they said should be trusted to make decisions with whomever they chose to consult. 

“My decades of experience as a physician and researcher brings me to conclude that forced parental involvement laws like this act serve no valid purpose and hurt young people and delay care,” said Amy Whitaker, chief medical officer at Planned Parenthood Illinois.

U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth, speaking in Springfield earlier this month, said the law does harm to girls who do not have a healthy relationship with their parents.

“When you talk about parental notification, it sounds like a good idea, but it also puts those vulnerable young people – the ones who do not have good communications with their parents – in a very vulnerable place, where they have no other options,” Duckworth said. 

The debate over law's possible repeal takes place amid a national fight over abortion rights as several conservative states move to significantly restrict the procedure.

The constitutionality of laws in Texas and Mississippi that restrict the procedure after six weeks and 15 weeks, respectively, will be considered by an increasingly conservative Supreme Court, possibly setting up a ruling that could strike down or significantly gut the 1973 landmark Roe v. Wade ruling.

At the same time, Illinois has moved in the opposite direction, enacting some of the most liberal abortion laws in the country.

The state’s abortion-rights position was codified with Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s signing of the Reproductive Health Act in 2019. The law enshrined reproductive health care — including abortion access — as a “fundamental right” in Illinois.

In 2017, then-Gov. Bruce Rauner signed House Bill 40, which permitted state health insurance and Medicaid coverage for abortions. The parental notification law is one of the last pro-life laws in the books in the state, passed by a Republican-controlled legislature in 1995.

Republicans are uniformly against the measure's repeal.

“A pregnant 14-year-old girl does not have the emotional maturity to deal with the implications of her decision,” said state Sen. Jil Tracy, R-Quincy. “No matter what choice she makes, her decision will have lifelong physical and mental consequences and she needs her caregivers — her parents — to be aware of those decisions so that they can provide the appropriate support.”

And some Democrats also have reservations. Four Democrats voted "no" and five did not vote in the Senate. These concerns could threaten the bill's passage in the House.

Lawmakers are scheduled to be in session through Thursday. Pritzker said earlier this month that he supports the measure.

Beyond repealing the PNA, the legislation would create a task force to identify resources existing and needed for young women who are pregnant or may become pregnant. 

The task force, which will have both adults and youth, will produce a report to the General Assembly no later than July 1, 2023. 


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