Chicago Tribune, “Time for
November 3, 2009
passed a law mandating that at least one parent or guardian be
notified when a girl 17 or younger wants an abortion. It looks
like the requirement will finally take effect soon. It's a
sensible, temperate law aimed at ensuring that parents will not
be shut out of a decision that has such grave health and moral
implications. And it's long, long overdue.
When the General Assembly approved the legislation, which was
signed by Gov. Jim Edgar, it included a provision allowing a
minor to avoid the notification requirement if a judge agreed
that she was the victim of abuse or neglect or that she was well
enough informed to make the decision herself. The law instructed
the Illinois Supreme Court to write rules under which a minor
could seek a waiver.
But the justices refused, arguing that that wasn't their job. So
a law that had been legitimately enacted by the legislature was
effectively repealed by judicial inaction.
Three years ago, though, the state Supreme Court took another
look at this, at the urging of
's Attorney Joe Birkett. And lo and behold, the court wrote the
rules. Last summer, a federal court cleared the way for the law
to be implemented.
It took a long, long time for democracy to work in this
instance, but we're glad it did, particularly for a measure that
represents an intelligent middle ground on a deeply divisive
issue. Abortion-rights supporters think pregnant girls should
have unrestricted access to abortion, while abortion-rights
opponents think abortion should be illegal for adults as well as
teens in most or all circumstances. Neither got their way this
The law recognizes that the constitutional right to privacy
encompasses a woman's right to have an abortion. But it reflects
an understanding that most minors lack the maturity to handle a
matter like this without the counsel of the people who care most
about them. To most people, we suspect, this is just a matter of
In this state, after all, a nurse can't give a minor an aspirin
without the permission of the parents. You can't get an ear
pierced until age 18 or buy a gun until age 21 unless a parent
consents. Abortion is at least as serious as those choices.
Unlike laws in some states, the
law doesn't give parents a veto over their daughter's decision
to get an abortion. But it gives them the opportunity to be
heard at a crucial moment, and to know what their child is going
The last hurdle: Enforcement has been stalled at least until
Wednesday, when a board of the Illinois Department of Financial
and Professional Regulation will meet.
This had better be a routine hearing. The legislature passed
this law in 1995. Enough with the delays