Abortion notification law sent back to lower court
BY DAVE MCKINNEY Sun-Times Springfield bureau chief firstname.lastname@example.org June 17, 2011 3:12PM
Updated: September 24, 2011 12:24AM
SPRINGFIELD — An unenforced 1995 law that requires physicians to notify a minor’s parent or guardian before performing an abortion should be returned to Cook County Circuit Court to determine its constitutionality, a state appeals court ruled Friday.
“Today’s ruling is extremely significant,” said Lorie A. Chaiten, director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois’ Reproductive Rights Project, which represented a Granite City abortion clinic and University of Illinois at Chicago physician in challenging the law.
“The court’s decision recognizes that there are serious constitutional issues raised by the Illinois Parental Notice of Abortion Act and permits our clients to return to the circuit court to present our strong case showing that the act threatens the health and well-being of young women,” Chaiten said.
Abortion-rights advocates turned to the state courts after a federal appeals panel ruled in August 2009 that the Illinois law did not run afoul of the U.S. Constitution. But after that, a Cook County circuit judge refused to permit the lawsuit since the federal courts already had weighed in, prompting the ACLU appeal to the Illinois Appellate Court.
The state appeals court ruling reverses the circuit court decision that lifted a restraining order barring implementation of the law, which was a GOP legislative centerpiece when Republicans last controlled both the Legislature and governor’s office in the mid-1990s.
Under the law, doctors would have to notify parents or legal guardians of girls 17 and younger at least two full days before performing an abortion on them. A judge could sidestep the requirement if a girl comes from an abusive home or has other extenuating circumstances in which a parent or guardian could not be notified.
A spokeswoman for Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan could not say whether her office would appeal Friday’s ruling to the Illinois Supreme Court, which in its current configuration has not ruled on a major abortion case.
“We’re reviewing the decision in order to determine the appropriate next step,” Madigan spokeswoman Robyn Ziegler said.
In 2009, the most recent date for which the state has published abortion data, 2,991 girls 17 and younger obtained abortions in Illinois and would have been affected by the law had it been in effect, state records show.