SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (NEXSTAR) — Lawmakers appear unlikely to tackle a controversial debate over one of the most personal decisions a young girl could face: whether or not girls 17 and under should have to tell their parents they’re seeking an abortion.
Bills filed in the House and Senate would repeal a provision in current state law that requires girls to notify their parents of an abortion, but the proposals never cleared the committee level. Currently, the state requires the physician who is caring for the patient to notify at least one parent, grandparent, step-parent living in the home, or legal guardian of the minor 48 hours prior to the procedure.
Representative Kelly Cassidy (D-Chicago), a co-sponsor of the bill, who is also known for leading the Reproductive Health Act in 2019, says the current law acts as harmful roadblock preventing young women from seeking reproductive health care.
“This is one of the last barriers to access we have in Illinois,” Cassidy said. “We have intentionally set ourselves out as an example for the country to follow with regard to reproductive justice freedom, this barrier needs to go too.”
Illinois law used to require teenagers to seek their parents’ consent before seeking an abortion, but that changed in 2019 when the state passed the Reproductive Healthcare Act. Governor Pritzker celebrated the passage of the RHA because he felt it made Illinois the “most progressive state in the nation” on abortion and reproductive health care.
Representative Avery Bourne (R-Morrisonville) disapproves of the new legislation, calling it a “major medical procedure” which could have physical consequences such as mental health.
“We should require that their parents are notified,” Bourne said.
Like many Republicans, Bourne believes involving a parent in personal decisions like an abortion can help young women find support.
“Having a guardian assist a young girl throughout the abortion process is critical,” she said.
Meanwhile, outside organizations are joining the debate on the controversial proposal.
Brigid Leahy, Senior Director of Public Policy with Planned Parenthood Illinois Action, says parental notification should be repealed to help protect girls’ health care.
“We know most parents love and care for their children,” Leahy said. “We know that most young people are going to turn to mom and dad in this situation. For those who can’t, this law is dangerous. It is harmful and it needs to be repealed.”
Mary FioRito, a mother of teenage girls and a spokesperson for the Parents for the Protection of Girls Coalition, says an abortion procedure can have a number of physical and psychological side effects.
“We know the girls who have abortions tend to have higher rates of suicidal ideation and anxiety and depression,” FioRito said, suggesting the notification itself could make parents aware of their daughters’ overall health.
FioRito says the bill would not prevent teen access to abortions, but that it would only require someone to notify the teen’s parents.
“We’re talking about parents knowing about an irreversible surgery being performed on their minor child,” she said.
Two versions of this proposal were presented in both the House and Senate. Neither have been assigned to a committee, which could delay the process of the bills being addressed this spring session.