Saying he was “protecting reproductive rights,” Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker signed a bill into law Friday that allows teenage girls to obtain an abortion without notifying their parents.
The new law, dubbed the “Youth Health and Safety Act” (HB 370), repeals a 1995 law that required minors to notify their parent or guardian 48 hours prior to having an abortion.
“With reproductive rights under attack across the nation, Illinois is once again establishing itself as a leader in ensuring access to healthcare services,” Pritzker said. “This repeal was essential, because it was the most vulnerable pregnant minors who were punished by this law: victims of rape and physical abuse in unsafe homes.”
Despite Pritzker’s reasoning, the 1995 law included an exception for victims of sexual abuse. It also allowed minors to petition for a court waiver if, for example, the minor came from an abusive home.
The new law’s legislative findings pointed to abortion restrictions in Mississippi and Texas and asserted that Illinois “again is called to be an example for the nation in the protection of reproductive health care” while also “working to establish healthy family communications, protecting the health and safety of youth including those who are pregnant and parenting, and investing in individuals throughout their lives.”
Supporters of the 1995 law, though, said the new law harms parent-child relationships.
“I am the father of a teenage girl. I love my daughter, and I care very deeply about what goes on in her life,” Jon Jones, a pastor at the Tinley Park campus of Christian Life Center in Illinois, said in urging legislators to back the ‘95 law. “If she were to get pregnant and consider an abortion, I would want to know so my wife and I could help her deal with the unexpected situation because we love her. We feel it is our duty to protect and guide her. We are family, and we deal with matters together. The state should not seek to interfere with our relationship.”
“The current law requiring that a parent or an adult family member be notified when a minor girl is seeking an abortion to us just makes common sense in a supportive family, which is the bedrock of society,” Jones said.
A March 2021 poll found that 72 percent of Illinois voters – including 58 percent of pro-choice voters – supported the parental notification law.
The legislative findings of the 1995 law said, “the medical, emotional, and psychological consequences of abortion are sometimes serious and long-lasting, and immature minors often lack the ability to make fully informed choices that consider both the immediate and long-range consequences.”
The new law takes effect on January 1, 2024.
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Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.