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Chicago Tribune, “Time for parent notice”


Chicago Tribune

November 3, 2009


Fourteen years ago, Illinois 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 So a law that had been legitimately enacted by the legislature was effectively repealed by judicial inaction.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 DuPage County State '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 time.

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 common sense.

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 Illinois 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 through.

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

To support and encourage Daniel and Angela please contact them - 
smallvictories@juno.com (email), 618-654-5800 (phone), 
or write them Small Victories P.O. Box 143 Highland, IL 62249.