Repeal takes place as abortion becomes central campaign issue
By PETER HANCOCK
Capitol News Illinois
SPRINGFIELD – Doctors in Illinois may now perform abortions on minors without notifying the child’s parents or obtaining a judicial bypass of the notification requirement.
That’s because a bill passed by the General Assembly during last year’s fall veto session and signed into law by Gov. JB Pritzker repealing the state’s 1995 parental notification requirement officially took effect Wednesday.
That development came as the U.S. Supreme Court appears poised to overturn its landmark 1973 decision in Roe vs. Wade, which legalized abortion nationwide, and as the debate over abortion rights has become a central issue in this year’s elections.
House Bill 370 passed the General Assembly in October despite opposition from some Democrats. It creates the Youth Health and Safety Act which, among other things, declares it to be public policy in Illinois that residents and people coming into the state should have access to reproductive health care, free of unnecessary barriers or bans on particular procedures.
It also repeals the 1995 Parental Notice of Abortion law, which did not go into effect until 2013 due to prolonged litigation.
Supporters of repealing the law argued that it imposed an undue burden on young pregnant women, especially those who became pregnant through rape or incest, while opponents argued that the notification requirement protected a parent’s right to guide their child’s health care.
Those same arguments were reiterated Wednesday as groups on both sides of the issue reacted to the new law taking effect.
“It is a grave injustice that the Illinois General Assembly and Governor Pritzker repealed this law,” the Catholic Conference of Illinois said in a statement Wednesday. “The Parental Notice of Abortion Act was a broadly-supported, reasonable safeguard that allowed Illinois’ parents to properly exercise love and care for their children.”
But the ACLU of Illinois, which lobbied in favor of the repeal, said the new law gives young people more autonomy over their own health care.
“Prior to today, pregnant young people could make any medical decision without barriers except abortion. Now thankfully they have the same right to make a confidential decision about their health care as everyone else,” Emily Werth, staff attorney at the ACLU of Illinois, said in a statement. “Today abortion is treated just like all other forms of health care in this state.”
Meanwhile, Pritzker was on the campaign trail in East St. Louis Wednesday where he hosted an event with local lawmakers and Planned Parenthood of Illinois to tout his support for abortion rights and to criticize his Republican challengers for their opposition to abortion.
“Every Republican running for governor of Illinois this year wants to make Illinois an anti-choice state. Every single one of them,” he said.
Asked about those remarks at a separate news conference, Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin, who is leading the GOP pack in recent polls, avoided discussing his own views about abortion but instead accused Pritzker of using abortion to sidestep other issues.
“He doesn’t want to talk about the fact that crime is spinning out of control in the state of Illinois. Taxes and wasteful spending is spinning out of control,” he said. “He doesn’t want to talk about the corruption that has prevented us from going forward and progressing as a state. He wants to talk about things that are already determined to be codified law in the state of Illinois.”
When pressed by a reporter to say whether he would reinstate the parental notification law if he is elected governor, Irvin said, “absolutely.” Reinstating that law would require action from the General Assembly.
Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news service covering state government that is distributed to more than 400 newspapers statewide. It is funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation.