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State attorney general argues for law requiring parental notification when minors get abortions

Attorney General LisMadigan. File Photo. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)

Attorney General Lisa Madigan. File Photo. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)

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Updated: October 22, 2012 6:23AM

SPRINGFIELD — Attorney General Lisa Madigan and the American Civil Liberties Union both support abortion rights, but they faced off in the state’s highest court Thursday over an unenforced 1995 state law requiring that parents be notified before their minor children obtain abortions.

In the latest wrinkle in a 17-year legal battle, the ACLU of Illinois asked the state Supreme Court Thursday to uphold a June 2011 appeals court ruling tossing out a Cook County judge’s decision to dismiss a challenge to Illinois’ long-dormant parental notification law.

That would essentially allow the challenge to go forward, a challenge embraced by abortion rights advocates.

Madigan, who favors abortion rights but did not attend Thursday’s arguments in the case, argued through a lawyer that the state law passed a generation ago passes constitutional muster and finally should go into effect.

“This attorney general is on the other side of the case, but it’s not a question of whether she’s pro choice or not pro choice,” said Lori Chaiten, director of the reproductive rights project for ACLU of Illinois.

“She’s making arguments that we believe are dangerous to the young women of Illinois, and our responses to those arguments are what we’re advancing in the courts.”

A Madigan spokesman justified her boss’ stance on the matter.

“A long line of court decisions have held that parental notice statutes are constitutional,” Madigan spokeswoman Natalie Bauer said.

“The attorney general is pro-choice. But as attorney general, she takes an oath to uphold the Constitution. And based on the clear court decisions upholding these statutes, the Illinois law is constitutional,” she said.

The ACLU is not asking specifically for the state Supreme Court to rule on the constitutionality of the parental notice law but rather affirm the appeals court ruling and permit abortion-rights advocate to fully make their case in circuit court that the parental notice law violates the state Constitution’s equal protection, privacy, due process and gender equality provisions.

If justices side with Madigan, the lower-court’s opinion will stand, and the law will be permitted to go into effect. The court could take months to decide the question.

“We have a quarter of a century of overwhelming, scientific evidence that demonstrates abortion is far safer than carrying a pregnancy to term, that pregnant minors who have abortion are as healthy if not healthier than those who carry to term, and that pregnant minors who have abortion are as capable as adults, let alone pregnant minors who carry to term, of making their own informed medical decisions,” Chaiten said.

“And we would like the opportunity to present that evidence to the circuit court because we believe when that happens, the false legislative assumptions about the harms of abortion will fall away, and the statute won’t be able to stand under any appropriate level of constitutional review,” she said.

A lawyer from the Thomas More Society, which is representing two Downstate state’s attorneys who favor the parental notice law, urged justices to undo the appeals court ruling and said Illinois’ Constitution doesn’t explicitly offer protections to minors wanting to obtain abortions without their parents’ involvement.

“It’s clear the Illinois Constitution does not confer a right to abortion, and therefore this law should go into effect,” said Paul Benjamin Linton, a lawyer for the anti-abortion group.

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