Illinois Enforces Parental Notification Law

Elisabeth Garber-Paul

After 14 years of legal battles, a law in Illinois requiring girls 17 and under to notify their parents of the choice to have an abortion will soon actually be enforced.

After 14 years of legal battles, a law in Illinois requiring girls 17 and under to notify their parents of the choice to have an abortion will soon actually be enforced.

While the law does not require consent from the parent—just notification at least 48 hours in advance—the decision has stirred both sides of the abortion issue.

“Anti-abortion activists applauded the appeals court’s decision as a long-overdue victory,” wrote the Chicago Tribune yesterday, “while opponents of the law said the measure was guaranteed to usher in dangerous problems.”

Pro-lifers see this as a necessary precaution to make sure that young girls don’t put themselves in harm’s way at an early age, without the consult of their parents. However, pro-choice advocates see that this is just another step to prevent women taking advantage of their right to an abortion.

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Chicago Public Radio reported that Lorie Chaiten, with ACLU Illinois, believes it denies necessary treatment to those who are entitled to it.

“Well, we’re quite disheartened, obviously, by the ruling. We think that it creates real harm for young women who are seeking to access essential healthcare in the face of an unintended pregnancy.”

This decision comes after Arizona’s Republican Governor Jan Brewer signed laws this week mandating a 24-hour waiting period and parental consent, according to Femenisting, as well as strengthening the ban on late-term abortion.

News Abortion

Parental Notification Law Struck Down in Alaska

Michelle D. Anderson

"The reality is that some young women face desperate circumstances and potentially violent consequences if they are forced to bring their parents into their reproductive health decisions," said Janet Crepps, senior counsel at the Center for Reproductive Rights. "This law would have deprived these vulnerable women of their constitutional rights and put them at risk of serious harm."

The Alaska Supreme Court has struck down a state law requiring physicians to give the parents, guardians, or custodians of teenage minors a two-day notice before performing an abortion.

The court ruled that the parental notification law, which applies to teenagers younger than 18, violated the Alaska Constitution’s equal protection guarantee and could not be enforced.

The ruling stems from an Anchorage Superior Court decision that involved the case of Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands and physicians Dr. Jan Whitefield and Dr. Susan Lemagie against the State of Alaska and the notification law’s sponsors.

In the lower court ruling, a judge denied Planned Parenthood’s requested preliminary injunction against the law as a whole and went on to uphold the majority of the notification law.

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Planned Parenthood and the physicians had appealed that superior court ruling and asked for a reversal on both equal protection and privacy grounds.

Meanwhile, the State of Alaska and the notification law’s sponsors appealed the court’s decision to strike some of its provisions and the court’s ruling.

The notification law came about after an initiative approved by voters in August 2010. The law applied to “unemancipated, unmarried minors” younger than 18 seeking to terminate a pregnancy and only makes exceptions in documented cases of abuse and medical emergencies, such as one in which the pregnant person’s life is in danger.

Justice Daniel E. Winfree wrote in the majority opinion that the anti-choice law created “considerable tension between a minor’s fundamental privacy right to reproductive choice and how the State may advance its compelling interests.”

He said the law was discriminatory and that it could unjustifiably burden “the fundamental privacy rights only of minors seeking pregnancy termination, rather than [equally] to all pregnant minors.”

Chief Justice Craig Stowers dissented, arguing that the majority’s opinion “unjustifiably” departed from the Alaska Supreme Court’s prior approval of parental notification.

Stowers said the opinion “misapplies our equal protection case law by comparing two groups that are not similarly situated, and fails to consider how other states have handled similar questions related to parental notification laws.”

Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR) officials praised the court’s ruling, saying that Alaska’s vulnerable teenagers will now be relieved of additional burdensome hurdles in accessing abortion care. Attorneys from the American Civil Liberties Union, CRR, and Planned Parenthood represented plaintiffs in the case.

Janet Crepps, senior counsel at CRR, said in a statement that the “decision provides important protection to the safety and well-being of young women who need to end a pregnancy.”

“The reality is that some young women face desperate circumstances and potentially violent consequences if they are forced to bring their parents into their reproductive health decisions. This law would have deprived these vulnerable women of their constitutional rights and put them at risk of serious harm,” Crepps said.

CRR officials also noted that most young women seeking abortion care involve a parent, but some do not because they live an abusive or unsafe home.

The American Medical Association, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and the Society for Adolescent Medicine have said minors’ access to confidential reproductive health services should be protected, according to CRR.

News Abortion

Indiana’s Omnibus Anti-Choice Law Will Make Pregnant People ‘Suffer’

Teddy Wilson

Some Republican legislators with anti-choice voting records opposed the omnibus anti-abortion bill, but Pence signed it on the last day he could approve or reject legislation this year.

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R) signed a bill into law Thursday that severely restricts reproductive rights with an assortment of regulations, including banning pregnant people from terminating a pregnancy due to fetal anomalies or the sex or race of a fetus.

The GOP-backed bill would have become law even if Pence had declined to sign it.

Some Republican legislators with anti-choice voting records opposed the omnibus anti-abortion bill, but Pence signed it on the last day he could approve or reject legislation this year.

There is no documentation that sex-selection abortions are a widespread problem in the United States. Proponents of the bans often justify the policy by using cultural stereotypes that target immigrant people of color.

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HB 1337, sponsored by Rep. Casey Cox (R-Ft. Wayne), makes numerous changes to state laws, including requiring forced counseling and mandatory ultrasounds for abortion patients, creating regulations on physicians who provide abortion care, and banning fetal tissue donation that has led to the development of vaccines and other public health benefits.

Physicians are prohibited from providing abortion care if the physician knows that the pregnant person is seeking the procedure because of the “race, color, national origin, ancestry, or sex of the fetus.” Abortion care has also been outlawed if the fetus has been diagnosed with Down syndrome or any other disability.

“We know that you’re going to be forcing woman [sic] and families to suffer emotionally because they’re going to be force to carry pregnancies that are not viable,” Kate Connors, director of communications for the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, told the Associated Press. “We’ve been hoping that the resounding chorus of voices would hit home. It obviously did not.”

Indiana joins seven other states that have banned abortion due to the sex of the fetus. Only North Dakota has banned abortion because of genetic abnormalities, according to the Guttmacher Institute.

The new law gives the “parent or parents” of a miscarried fetus the right to take possession of the remains of a miscarried or aborted fetus. If that person or those individuals decide not to take possession of the fetal remains, the health-care facility would be required to provide for the final disposition of the miscarried or aborted fetus, which could then only be cremated or interred.

Under the law, anyone who knowingly transports an aborted fetus into or out of Indiana would be committing a class A misdemeanor, unless the aborted fetus was transported for the purpose of final disposition. A class A misdemeanor could result in a year in jail and a $5,000 fine.

The omnibus law requires a physician to perform an ultrasound on a pregnant person considering an abortion at least 18 hours prior to the procedure, at the same time “informed consent” is obtained. The pregnant person must be given the opportunity to view the images and hear the auscultation of the fetal heart tone. The pregnant person could choose not view the images or listen to the audio.

It also requires the state department of health to submit copies of admitting privileges and written agreements between physicians to other hospitals in the county and contiguous counties in which abortions are performed.

Pence called the legislation a “comprehensive pro-life measure,” and signed the bill despite protests from reproductive rights advocates in the state and throughout the country. An online petition, organized by Indy Feminists, has gathered more than 5,700 signatures opposing the bill.

While Republicans overwhelmingly supported the bill, there were some who opposed it on the grounds that it is intrusive in the relationship between a doctor and a patient.

Republicans like Rep. Sharon Negele (R-Merrillville) opposed the sweeping anti-choice law on the grounds that it is too punitive. “The bill does nothing to save innocent lives. There’s no education, there’s no funding. It’s just penalties,” Negele told the Chicago Tribune.

The law will take effect in July. Reproductive rights advocates have vowed to bring a legal challenge against the law.

“It is clear that the governor is more comfortable practicing medicine without a license than behaving as a responsible lawyer, as he picks and chooses which constitutional rights are appropriate,” said Betty Cockrum, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky.

Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky is working to request that the law be blocked before it takes effect.

State Rep. Linda Lawson (D-Hammond) told the New York Times that the anti-choice omnibus law is part of an effort by Republican lawmakers to effectively ban abortion care throughout the state.

“They’ve been on a mission, the Republicans in the Indiana General Assembly, to make sure that affordable health care and abortion is no longer available for women in the state of Indiana,” Lawson said.