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Illinois General Assembly Votes to Repeal
Parental Notice of Abortion
Amy Gehrke & Steven Jacobs, J.D., Ph.D. | 18 November 2021
During the state’s annual Veto Session in October, Illinois’s state House of Representatives and state Senate voted to repeal[i] The Parental Notice of Abortion Act (PNA). Despite the recent Virginia election results, which showed[ii] that voters reject extreme abortion laws and believe the rights of parents should be respected, Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker has doubled down[iii] on his support of the repeal, which is slated to go into effect on June 1 of 2022.
After being passed by the Illinois legislature in 1995, the Illinois Supreme Court refused to promulgate the parental notice of abortion law until 2013. According to the Illinois Department of Public Health,[iv] in 2012, the year before the law was first enforced, 2,213 minors had abortions in Illinois. In 2018, the most recent year for which data is available, that number fell to only 1,092. Clearly, PNA was an effective law that not only saved lives but empowered women to make the choice they felt was right for them with the help of their parents.
If abortion advocates in Illinois still honored the “safe, legal, and rare” abortion approach adopted by President Bill Clinton in the 1990s, this practical, protective legislation would be something supported by those on both sides of the abortion debate. And indeed, on the ground level, both sides did. According to a March 2021 poll[v] conducted by The Tarrance Group, 72% of Illinois voters favored PNA, including 58% of those who identify as "pro-choice."
Since the repeal effort is wildly unpopular among their constituents—and opposed by a majority of their supporters—why would pro-abortion politicians vote to repeal a commonsense law like PNA? After all, according to the Guttmacher Institute,[vi] a majority of states have parental involvement laws that require abortion providers to either notify or receive consent from a parent before performing an abortion on a minor. Of these 38 states, 21 require consent, so Illinois's law was relatively moderate since it only required notice. Illinois now has the dubious "honor" of being the only state in the nation to repeal a parental involvement law.
Unfortunately, in Illinois, words like “commonsense” and “moderate” no longer apply to abortion laws. Since 2017, Terry Cosgrove’s political action committee “Personal PAC” has successfully advocated for the repeal of virtually all pro-life legislation that Illinois lawmakers passed throughout the 80s, 90s, and 00s. Personal PAC is incredibly powerful in Illinois and extreme even by pro-abortion standards. Their motto is, "Pro-Choice. No Exceptions," and they mean what they say. They openly advocate for abortion on demand, through all nine months of pregnancy, with zero exceptions which is, of course, wildly out of step with mainstream American beliefs about abortion.
Between the passage of HB40[vii] in 2017 (which provided for taxpayer funding of abortion and repealed Illinois’s trigger law which would have reinstated the state’s abortion ban if Roe v. Wade were overturned), the passage of the Reproductive Health Act[viii] in 2019 (which removed countless protections of the preborn and their mothers, including permitting abortion for virtually any reason up until birth and allowing abortion clinics to, in essence, regulate themselves), and now the repeal of PNA in 2021, Personal PAC’s strongarm tactics painted Democrats into a corner—legislators are required to effectively sign an oath[ix] that they will vote for any Personal PAC legislation; if they do not sign, they are told that Personal PAC will treat them as an “anti-choice” politician and will fight them just as hard as any politician with an “R” behind their name.
While we often focus on the political aspects of the abortion debate, what’s even more important is the effect on humans’ lives.
The repeal of PNA tramples on the fundamental rights of parents to be involved in their minor daughters' health care. In Illinois, minor girls cannot get a piercing, a tattoo, go on a school field trip, or even receive an aspirin at school without their parents' consent. Illinois's PNA law simply required abortion providers to notify parents or other specific guardians or family members 48 hours prior to a minor's abortion. If a young woman did not believe a parent or guardian could be notified, she could obtain a judicial waiver.
PNA was also an essential safeguard against sex trafficking and a crucial tool to prevent sexual abuse of minors. Consider the words of Dr. Brook Bello,[x] a survivor of sex trafficking, who has said that, if her parents had been notified of one of her many forced abortions, she could have been freed from a life of sex trafficking. Consider that a large percentage of teen girls[xi] are impregnated by men older than age 20. Consider the October 27 speech[xii] given by Illinois State Representative Chris Bos on the floor of the Illinois House detailing his work with minor girls who are victims of human trafficking and how PNA helped rescue them.
Unfortunately, young girls in Illinois will no longer be so protected. Even worse, young girls throughout our nation will no longer be so protected. In the Senate hearing for the repeal of PNA, one Illinois abortion doctor admitted that 50% of women who have abortions at her clinic on the Missouri border are from other states. With the recent action on Texas's S.B. 8, which effectively bans abortion at the sixth week of pregnancy when a fetal heartbeat can first be detected, we already see an increase[xiii] in the number of out-of-state women who receive abortions in Illinois.
If a young girl lives in one of the 38 states that have parental involvement laws, and especially in one of the 21 states requiring parental consent, Illinois is now primed to be her abortion destination if she wants to evade her state's laws. Given the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health case currently being considered by the Supreme Court, in which the Court might soon overturn Roe and permit states to ban abortion, even more, minor girls might soon travel to Illinois for their abortions.
Many have written Illinois off as a haven of abortion extremism that will never change. They do so at their peril.
Simply put, as long as Illinois has wildly permissive abortion laws and a total lack of protections of the preborn and their mothers, it does not matter what laws other states pass. Illinois is an escape valve, a release hatch, a chink in the Nation’s pro-life armor. To ensure that other states’ laws effectively protect the preborn and their mothers, efforts must be made to support the pro-life movement in Illinois; to fight back against the Terry Cosgrove’s and the abortion advocates in Illinois; to win the state back for life.
[ii] Olohan, Mary Margaret, McAuliffe’s Abortion Push Fails to Sway Voters in Virginia Governor Race (dailysignal.com), November 04, 2021.
[iii] Rich Miller: Pritzker stands behind his PNA repeal decision | Columnists | herald-review.com, November 5, 2021.
[iv] Abortion Statistics (illinois.gov), 2018 Abortion Statistics.
[v] News | Save Parental Notice of Abortion in Illinois (saveparentalnotification.com),“Minority Voters Want Parental Notification of Abortion to Remain Illinois Law
African American Parent and Pastor Urges Lawmakers to Not Denigrate Minority Families,” May 12, 2021.
[vi] Parental Involvement in Minors’ Abortions | Guttmacher Institute, November 1, 2021.
[vii] Geiger, Kim and Pearson, Rick, Rauner signs controversial abortion bill, angering conservatives - Chicago Tribune, September 29, 2017.
[viii] Illinois Abortion Law Guide: What does the Reproductive Health Act mean? - ABC7 Chicago, June 14, 2019.
[xi] Males, Michael, “Teens and Older Partners,” http://recapp.etr.org/recapp/index.cfm?fuseaction=pages.TheoriesDetail&PageID=393, May-June 2004.
[xiii] Willeke, Becky, Illinois abortion clinic sees uptick in out-of-state patients following Texas abortion law | WGN-TV (wgntv.com), October 19, 2021.
Illinois Right to Life
Steven Jacobs, J.D., Ph.D.
Illinois Right to Life