Illinois Supreme Court ends challenges to abortion law

July 11, 2013

The Associated Press

A lengthy and emotionally charged legal battle over an Illinois abortion notification law appears to be ending, clearing the way for the state to begin enforcing a 1995 measure that requires doctors to notify a girl's parents 48 hours before the procedure.

The Illinois Supreme Court ruled Thursday to uphold a circuit court's earlier dismissal of the case challenging the parental notification law filed by a Granite City women's health clinic and a doctor at the University of Illinois at Chicago. The decision means the state's parental notification law now has to be enforced — unless there's an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

In its opinion, the court noted that the nation's high court has found parental notification laws to be constitutional.

"Those precedents were followed here to find no due process or equal protection violation in Illinois," the court wrote.

The American Civil Liberties Union, which represented the southeastern Illinois clinic and the director of the University of Illinois at Chicago's Center for Reproductive Health, said the law will go into effect in 35 days. The organization pledged in a statement to spend the next weeks working with health care providers and lawyers.

The Attorney General's office was not immediately available for comment regarding the decision Thursday morning.

The Parental Notice of Abortion Act requires doctors of girls 17 and younger to notify a parent 48 hours before an abortion. A girl could get a waiver if a judge says notification is against her best interest, including in cases of sexual abuse.

The law, instituted in 1995, was a key part of Republicans' legislative agenda when they briefly controlled state government. But it was never enforced in Illinois because of a long string of court challenges.

The ACLU sued in 2009 to block the law's implementation after a decision by the U.S. Appeals Court would have permitted it to take effect. It argued the law is flawed because young women are capable of making informed medical decisions. Citing medical experts, the ACLU argued that parental involvement has not been shown to affect abortion rates, and that abortions don't harm the psychological health of vulnerable teenage girls.

But anti-abortion activists said parents are being denied basic rights when their children get abortions without their knowledge. The Attorney General's office had argued the ban should be enforced.