Please join our panel to find out more about the dangers posed by the Parental Notification of Abortion Law and what we need to do to repeal it.
- Dr. Allison Cowett (Co-Director of Family Planning Associates)
- Donna Miller (Cook County Commissioner)
- Rep. Anna Moeller (Repeal PNA Sponsor)
“The Parental Notification Act (PNA) passed in 1995 offers a loophole: it dictates that minors who want or need to avoid alerting their parents can utilize Judicial Bypass to do so, which requires that they go to court and appear before a judge to face questioning about their decision. But courts are public settings and, especially if someone lives in a small town, it means they might be recognized in the process of obtaining one. The reality is that judicial bypass is a cruel and emotionally upsetting experience that does nothing to protect the health or well being of young women; instead, it forces minors to be publicly judged for what should be a private choice.
Parental notification can sound like a good idea—why not require a conversation between a young woman and her parents? But not every minor has good parents. Many young women facing an unwanted pregnancy fear the response of their families, which can include emotional or physical harm, demands that the minor carry to term against their will or the loss of financial support or even shelter. In some cases, the prospect of telling parents can even lead to suicidal thoughts and deep depression. In one shocking case in Illinois, a forced conversation about unwanted pregnancy would have resulted in the likely death of the young woman by her own brother because the families’ religion required that for the family to save face.
It’s also worth noting that for no other medical decision do minors who are pregnant need to consult with their parents. Young women can become pregnant and carry to term without notifying their parents, even though pregnancy is far more dangerous than an abortion. They have the right to take medication without consulting their parents.
Pregnant teens are vulnerable, and they have few resources. Most of them are in high school—and to avoid parental notification by using the judicial bypass system, they have to secretly go to court without their parents learning about it, likely missing class in the process. They might not even have access to personal cell phones or have email accounts that their parents will not read, or a form of transportation to and from court for their appearance.
For six years, the ACLU in Illinois has assigned pro bono lawyers to each minor in need of support for a judicial bypass—someone who helps to guide young women through this emotionally fraught process. But even that doesn’t stop it from being a punitive and upsetting experience. “It is so cruel to put young women through this,: Melissa Widen, an attorney who supports young women navigating their judicial bypass hearings, told Ms., “who are trying to do the responsible thing in their lives.”
Synopsis from ACLU of IL
“SB 1594 repeals the Parental Notice of Abortion Act, which requires a healthcare provider to notify an adult family member (parent, grandparent, step-parent living in the home, or legal guardian) at least 48 hours prior to performing an abortion for a patient under 18. The law creates a judicial bypass for those who cannot notify an adult family member. Decades of research and experience demonstrate that forced parental involvement laws like this hurt young people and serve no valid purpose.
Healthy family communication cannot be legislated: We all want young people to be able to talk to their parents about important life decisions. However, the idea that the government can force healthy family interactions ignores reality for many youth and the lasting injuries that result from enforcing these laws.
The majority of young people voluntarily tell a parent about an unplanned pregnancy – and the younger a minor, the more likely they are to involve a parent. Those who do not tell a parent often involve another family member or trusted adult.
The minority of young people who do not talk to their parents often have concerns such as: fear of physical or emotional abuse, loss of financial support, or homelessness; fear of being forced to give birth against their will; or serious family problems such as a parent who is sick or imprisoned.
The judicial bypass process itself harms young people: The “judicial bypass” alternative to parental notice – where a young person must ask a judge for permission to have an abortion without notifying a parent – compounds the harms for young people.
Youth face major logistical hurdles accessing a judicial bypass – such as getting away from school or home during business hours without raising suspicion, and travelling to and from a courthouse.
Young people are understandably distressed by being required to go to court and to tell the most intimate details of their life to a stranger.
The judicial bypass process serves no purpose: Since the law went into effect in 2013, judges granted more than 99.5 percent of bypass requests throughout Illinois because they believed the young people were mature enough to make this decision independently, in consultation with their health care providers and chosen support systems.
Every leading medical organization opposes forced parental involvement laws, including: The American Medical Association; The American Academy of Pediatrics; The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists; The Society for Adolescent Medicine; and The American Public Health Association.”