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Illinois: Repeal Forced Parental Notice of Abortion

Law Violates Young People’s Human Rights, Can Delay Their Care

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Chicago, Illinois

Dr. Amber Truehart, OB-GYN
A few months ago, I was talking to a 17-year-old young lady over the phone about her seeking abortion care. 

And during that conversation, she shared with me that she was in a very complicated situation and was actually in the foster care system. 

I was discussing the need for parental notification and she seemed very

Dr. Amber Truehart, OB-GYN
overwhelmed by this entire idea of who do you even tell when you don’t have any contact with either of your parents. 

Illinois’ Parental Notice of Abortion Act [PNA] requires a healthcare provider to notify an “adult family member” of any patient under 18, 48 hours in advance of providing an abortion. The adult can only be a parent, grandparent, stepparent who lives with the young person, or a legal guardian. 

If a young person is unable or unwilling to notify a parent, they can ask a judge to waive the notice requirement trough the “judicial bypass” process. 

Circuit Court of Cook County
Chicago, Illinois

This process can be very stressful, and puts the confidentiality and safety of the young person at risk. 

Dr. Amber Truehart, OB-GYN
The young lady that was trying to schedule an abortion, she was crying when she heard what the process meant because I think she was kind of dealing within her head and she even expressed to me, that this isn’t going to happen. If I have to do all of these things and do all these, you know, make these other phone calls, contact these other people, it’s not going to happen. 

The majority of young people in the US do talk to a parent or another trusted adult when seeking abortion care, even when the law doesn’t require it. However, those who choose not to involve their parents often fear negative consequences. 

Leah Bruno, Attorney
I have spoken with women who have, you know, any number of concerns and those concerns can range all the way through to something that could result in them being kicked out of their home and irreparably damaging their relationship. 

Hannah, Youth Organizer, ICAH
She was a 17-year-old senior in high school, and working approximately 20 hours a week, when she learned she was pregnant. After talking with her older sister, she concluded abortion was the best decision for her. She saw how her mother previously kicked her older sister out of the house and was afraid the same would happen to her. 

Cat, Youth Organizer, ICAH
She was a 17-year-old high school graduate and she was preparing to start college. 

Cat, Youth Organizer, ICAH
When she discovered she was pregnant, she decided to have an abortion, but knew she couldn’t tell her parents. When her father had learned she was sexually active, he hit her and grounded her for months. 

Judge Susan Fox Gillis, Retired Judge
Without question, the women who appeared before me were very well-informed. They had significant maturity. 

Judge Susan Fox Gillis, Retired Judge
They were able to give me reasons why they felt it was imperative that they have an abortion. By coming into court, it was a risky thing. In Cook County, 

Circuit Court of Cook County, Chicago, Illinois
it was hard to get there. The bypass process, in my opinion, was just another stumbling block for these women to go through. 

Young people who cannot navigate judicial bypass may be forced to continue unwanted pregnancies or involve unsupportive or abusive parents. The PNA law violates the human rights of young people under 18 and undermines their safety, health, and dignity. 

ICAH Youth Organizers
Legislators, can’t you see? PNA is misery. 

Illinois legislators should affirm the human rights and dignity of young people under 18, by voting to repeal the Parental Notice of Abortion Act [PNA] as a matter of urgency. 


(Chicago) – An Illinois law that requires a young person seeking an abortion to involve an adult family member is dangerous for youth in the state, violates their human rights, and threatens their health and safety, Human Rights Watch and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Illinois said in a report released today. The Illinois General Assembly should repeal the law, the Illinois Parental Notice of Abortion Act, as a matter of urgency according to the report.

Under the Parental Notice of Abortion Act, a doctor providing care to a young person under age 18 seeking an abortion in Illinois must notify a designated adult family member – a parent, grandparent, step-parent living in the home, or legal guardian – at least 48 hours beforehand. If there is a reason that the young person is not able to have one of these family members notified, the young person can go to court and ask a judge for permission to have the procedure without this forced family involvement, in a process known as “judicial bypass.”

The 73-page report, “‘The Only People It Really Affects Are the People It Hurts’: The Human Rights Impacts of Parental Notice of Abortion in Illinois,” is the product of a collaboration between Human Rights Watch and the ACLU of Illinois. The groups found that young people often seek judicial bypass because they fear physical or emotional abuse, being kicked out of the home, alienation from their families or other deterioration of family relationships, or being forced to continue a pregnancy against their will. The groups also documented the hardships faced by young people forced to involve unsupportive family members in their abortion decision or navigate an unfamiliar court system to obtain a judicial bypass, and the additional stress and delays in seeking care this caused.

“This law may force young people to continue pregnancies against their will or to endure abuse, humiliation, and punishment by unsupportive parents,” said Margaret Wurth, the lead author of the report and a senior researcher at Human Rights Watch. “And their alternative as they try to make decisions about their own bodies and lives may be to face a difficult and even traumatizing court experience.”

Human Rights Watch conducted in-depth interviews with 37 people – including attorneys, healthcare providers, a retired judge, and others – and analyzed approximately three-and-a-half years of data and other information gathered by the ACLU of Illinois concerning young people who have gone through the judicial bypass process.

Human Rights Watch also assessed the law in light of international human rights standards. Human rights experts have consistently called for the removal of barriers that deny access to safe and legal abortion, and have commented specifically on parental involvement requirements posing a barrier to abortion care. Human Rights Watch concluded that Illinois’ forced parental notice law violates a range of human rights for young people, including the rights to health, to be heard, to privacy and confidentiality, to nondiscrimination and equality under the law, to decide the number and spacing of children, and to be free from cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.

The ACLU of Illinois operates a Judicial Bypass Coordination Project to provide free legal assistance to youth impacted by the law, representing more than 500 young people in the past seven years since the law went into effect in judicial bypass proceedings around the state. Of this number, only one young person’s request for a bypass was ultimately denied.

“After years of representing young people before judges in bypass cases around the state of Illinois, it is clear that this law is unnecessary and harmful,” said Emily Werth, a staff attorney at the ACLU of Illinois. “The law should protect young people seeking to end a pregnancy, not erect unnecessary barriers and delays that stand between them and receiving safe health care from a qualified provider.”

The groups noted that most young people involve a close family member in their decision to terminate a pregnancy regardless of any law, and when young people seeking abortion do not talk to a parent, they have good reasons. A healthcare provider relates in the report that one patient under 18 seeking abortion care told her: “My mother is very strict with me. If she knows I’m pregnant, she’ll definitely throw me out of the house.”

The groups also found that the notice law can lead to significant delays for young people that affect their access to medical care. Working with a lawyer and surreptitiously arranging for a court appearance adds a week on average (and sometimes much more) to a young person’s timeline of obtaining abortion care. Those days can be critical – a young person may pass the point of eligibility for a noninvasive medication abortion, or may need a procedure requiring multiple appointments over consecutive days.

One young person forced to go to court to seek a judicial bypass described the process as “very stressful and nerve wracking.” Another said, “It was scary at first not knowing what to expect.”

The report also presents cases in which young people were forced to continue a pregnancy against their wishes because they were unable to comply with the notice law or navigate judicial bypass, or because their parents interfered in their decision and prevented them from accessing abortion care. Describing one such case, a social worker interviewed for the report said her patient became “a prisoner in her own home,” when her parents prevented her from accessing abortion care and forced her to continue a pregnancy. “Her autonomy was completely removed, taken away from her,” the social worker said.

Earlier this year, Illinois State Senator Elgie R. Sims, Jr. and State Representative Anna Moeller introduced measures in both Illinois General Assembly chambers aimed at repealing this harmful lawSB 2190 and HB 1797, respectively. Votes are anticipated in both chambers before the end of May 2021.

“Illinois leaders have repeatedly affirmed their commitment to protecting reproductive rights in the state,” Wurth said. “Passing legislation to repeal the parental notification act is essential to fulfilling that commitment.”

Graphic reading Repeal PNA Now with a green background and blue and yellow lettering

It is time for Illinois to repeal harmful forced Parental Notice of Abortion (PNA), an unnecessary law that puts young people in danger and interferes with their access to time-sensitive health care. Join the campaign today. 


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