Senate committee moves to end parental notification requirement for abortion

SPRINGFIELD (Illinois News Network) — The full Senate could soon vote to repeal a law that requires girls to notify their parents before getting an abortion.

The Senate Public Health Committee approved Senate Bill 1594 Tuesday on a party-line vote. If passed by both chambers and signed into law, the measure would repeal the Illinois Parental Notice of Abortion Act.

“We have a situation that puts young people at risk,” said bill sponsor state Sen. Elgie Sims, D-Chicago. “If you have an unplanned pregnancy there’s the opportunity to be ostracized by your family and to be put into physical danger.”

“This bill is not an anti-family bill, it is a pro-family bill,” Sims said Tuesday in committee.

Sims shared a story of a 17-year-old he knows from the Springfield area who had an unplanned pregnancy. She planned to get an abortion. She went to her parents, who urged her to stay with the man who got her pregnant. Sims said the teenager ended up in a longterm relationship with the man, who ended up abusing her and the child.

“But if she would have been able to terminate that relationship in the beginning, that would have never happened, but that situation has happened over and over again,” Sims said.

The existing state law requires parental notification, but not parental approval. It also allows minors to bypass the notification requirement by going before a judge. Sims said the judicial bypass option was not a reasonable alternative.

“You’re asking [teenagers] to go in front of the court and represent themselves in a judicial forum,” he said. “We are putting demands on young people that we should not be.”

Some 1,670 people filed witness slips in favor of the bill. More than 7,400 people filed witness slips in opposition to the bill.

Sen. Jason Plummer, R-Edwardsville, opposed the measure. He said he understood the concerns those who want to get rid of the notification requirement. However, he said the procedure warranted notification.

“For there to be maybe a hurdle or two there, I don’t think that as a society that’s necessarily a worse thing because at the end of the day we are talking about the termination of a heartbeat,” Plummer said.

Attorney Donna Adler opposed the measure. In a Senate committee, she said Senate Bill 1594 puts children at risk.

“They need parental support, they need parental consent, they need parental oversight, they need the protection of their parents,” Adler said.

Opponents of the bill have said the parental notification requirement has helped reduce the number of minors who get abortions since it went into effect in 2012.

In 2011, there were 229 abortions performed on girls younger than 14. In 2017, the latest year for which statistics available, there were 91 abortions performed on girls younger than 14, according to records from the Illinois Department of Public Health

Sims said those claims were disingenuous. He said the reductions were the result of better contraception.

“So please do not sit here and try to fear monger, please do not sit here and insult my intelligence, please do not sit here and insult the intelligence of this committee and people around this state,” Sims said.

In the middle of Tuesday’s debate in committee, both sides talked over each other. Committee Chairwoman Patricia Van Pelt had to use her gavel to get control of the room right as a test fire alarm announcement was made.

“I thought you all started a fire,” she said once she realized the public announcement was only a test.

“Parental notification laws protect parents as well as minors,” said Peter Breen, vice president and senior counsel for the Thomas More Society, an anti-abortion group. “The prospect of a 14-year-old going in for a secret abortion, without the involvement of her parents, is something that should frighten every Illinoisan.”

Breen, a former state lawmaker, said in a statement that before 2012, when the law went into effect, girls streamed into Illinois from other states, “sometimes brought here by much older men to destroy the evidence of sex crimes.”

“But since our law went into effect, the underage abortion rate in Illinois has plummeted 55 percent,” Breen said. “Without parental notification of abortion, you would see a return to those bad old days.”

The measure passed, 8 to 4, with all Republicans on the committee voting against the measure.

“Family communications cannot be mandated by law, they flow from trust and shared values among family members,” ACLU of Illinois Executive Director Colleen Connell. “A young person who does not want to communicate with a parent has a very good reason. We need to trust youth in our state to make the health care decisions, without forcing them to risk their health and safety.”

Gov. J.B. Pritzker has said he wants to make Illinois “the most progressive state in the nation when it comes to guaranteeing women’s reproductive rights.”

Related: Pritzker’s executive order demands abortion, reproductive services be included for public employees

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