Illinois Hotline Offers Recourse to Teens Facing Parental Notification Laws

Anna Clark

A hotline set up by the ACLU in Illinois is intended to help teens in need exercise their due process rights to a judicial bypass option in case they need an abortion but do not want to notify their parents. These and other efforts seek to protect the rights of pregnant young women who cannot inform their parents of their pregnancy and abortion, often because of concern for their physical safety or abandonment, or because their parents are inaccessible. In such cases, a young woman seeking an abortion can bring her case to a judge, who in turn can permit the medical procedure without the required notification or consent.

If you are not
quite 18 years old and living in Illinois, if you are pregnant, if you need to
terminate your pregnancy and if you know that telling your family is not a safe
or wise choice, then, as of this summer, you have only a single legal option.

You need to
navigate a courtroom obstacle course to get a judicial bypass for your
abortion.

And Leah Bartelt
wants to be very clear about this: a judicial bypass is not a way to skip
around the state’s new parental notification law, but rather, it is the very
essence of the law. Bartelt says:

The media
reporting on the (Illinois parental) notification law are saying that the ACLU
is helping (minors) ‘exploit loopholes’ in the law,” said Bartelt, who is the
reproductive rights staff counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union in
Illinois. “This is incredibly frustrating because this is in the law. To say we’re exploiting loopholes is dishonest.

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She added, “This
isn’t bypassing the law; this is a due process right that the young women
have.”

That is one
bright fact that’s emerged in a tough Midwest summer. In July, the U.S. Court
of Appeals dissolved the injunction on the 1995 Illinois Parental Notice of
Abortion Act—meaning that a young woman cannot receive an abortion without a
parent, legal guardian, grandparent, or other adult family member being
notified. There is a 90-day grace period before the law takes effect, which was
granted after the Illinois Medical Disciplinary Board said that it needs time
to make changes to its process, which will include penalizing doctors that
don’t comply with the notification law. The grace period expires in November
2009.

Illinois joins
thirty-four other states that have parental involvement laws for minors seeking
to terminate a pregnancy. This spring, a report from the Guttmacher Institute
found that these laws seem to “have little impact on minors’ abortion rates
and, by extension, birthrates and pregnancy rates,” except in Texas, where the
lower number of abortions for minors seems to correlate with the increasing
number of teen pregnancies. The Guttmacher report’s finding is in part because many
minors travel to states without parental involvement laws in order to obtain an
abortion.

The report also
notes that it found “no studies that evaluated the increased costs of obtaining
an abortion due to delays, travel, or bypass proceedings; the impact of minors
being forced to consult their parents; or minors’ opinions about the parental
involvement laws.” It urges for more research to be done.

The judicial
bypass option in Illinois and elsewhere is intended to protect the rights of
pregnant young women who cannot inform their parents of their pregnancy and
abortion, often because of concern for their physical safety or abandonment, or
because their parents are inaccessible. In such cases, a young woman seeking an
abortion can bring her case to a judge, who in turn can permit the medical
procedure without the required notification or consent.

The U.S. Supreme
Court found in 1979 that so long as the judicial bypass option exists,
mandatory parental notification or consent laws are not an infringement on the
right to abortion.

Bartelt is among
those who have teamed together to form The Illinois Judicial Bypass
Coordination Project as a response to the state’s new restrictions. It is
designed to not only protect the right of the judicial bypass, but to make it
accessible to young women who might otherwise be daunted by dodging through the
legal process on their own … all while trying to protect their privacy from
unwelcome intrusions by their family and community.

The strategy?
The Illinois Judicial Bypass Coordination Project offers a free hotline that’s
available to minors between 9 am and 9 pm, six days a week, at 1-877-44-BYPASS. The hotline is staffed
by trained volunteers who provide information on the regulations, timelines,
who legally needs to be notified and who does not. The project also developed a
comprehensive guide to help young women understand their rights related to parental
notice laws, all-options counseling, and the bypass process.

“We want to get
this (guide) out to abortion clinics, physicians, health care providers, school
health centers, all girl-serving agencies,” Bartelt said.

Through the
hotline, callers can also tap into the project’s network of pro bono lawyers.  Bartelt says:

If she (the
caller) knows abortion is her right choice and she wants to go to court, the
volunteer will fill out her intake form (…) and we will find her a lawyer,”
Bartelt said. “We’ve required lawyers to represent the young women pro bono so
no one has to go to court without a lawyer.

Like the hotline
volunteers, the lawyers too are trained about the parental notification law and
the bypass process, including challenges that are peculiar to these situations,
such as the transportation problems common among minors trying to get to their
hearing while keeping the process private from their family and school.

The nation’s
newest judicial bypass hotline borrows from models pioneered elsewhere,
including the PATH Project facilitated by the ACLU in Florida. Created in
December 2005, the PATH Project’s toll-free legal hotline (877-FLA-PATH) facilitated about 600 bypass cases in 2008, according
to Bartelt. Like the new initiative in Illinois, the PATH Project guides
callers to a network of pro bono attorneys, offers lawyer training.

Our goal
is to empower teens to make decisions – based on their best
interests – about their own medical care,” states the PATH Project’s
mission on its website.

But what may be
the longest-running judicial bypass hotline comes from Jane’s Due Process, a
nine-year-old organization committed to ensuring legal representation for teens
in Texas.

Jane’s Due Process hosts a 24-hour
toll-free hotline (1-866-www-jane),
initiated after parental notification passed in Texas in 2000. (Texas has since
toughened up its restrictions by passing a parental consent law.) The hotline
is staffed by volunteers, including many who are law students at the University
of Texas, and it helps minors find lawyers for their bypass. It also provides
training to attorneys so that they are equipped to help young women navigate
the court system that regularly refuses to hear these cases, despite being
required to do so by law.

While Jane’s Due
Process doesn’t have any marketing budget, young women find out about it via
its web presence, referrals from clinics, and from an informational piece
that’s available from health clinics and parenting programs.

“Girls don’t
normally come looking for us until they need us,” said Tina, the hotline
coordinator for Jane’s Due Process. She asked that her last name not be used.

Who are these
girls who call the hotline? Last year, according to the organization’s annual
report, 469 minors from around the country called Jane’s Due Process for
judicial bypass assistance—up from 316 the previous year. Of these, 18 percent were
mothers already supporting at least one child. This is not much of a surprise:
Dallas is the U.S. city with the highest percentage (28 percent) of teen births that
are from repeat pregnancies, according to a recent report from Child Trends, a
nonpartisan Washington-based group that used statistics from the Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention from 2006 (the most recent year the numbers are
available). As a whole, Texas has the highest repeat teen birth rate of any
state, for the sixth straight year, at 23%. Five of the fifteen worst ranked
cities are in Texas.

In such a
context, Jane’s Due Process—the only organization in Texas dedicated to work of
this kind—continues to take callers. Twenty-two percent of last year’s callers
reported physical or emotional abuse from their parent or guardian; many reported
having been  impregnated by their
father. Twenty-five percent were orphans, had parents who didn’t live in the
U.S. (often caught in an immigration tangle), or were otherwise inaccessible.
Fully 27 percent of callers had been kicked out of their homes, or were threatened
with being kicked out or disowned for being pregnant. Sixty percent of callers
were 17 years old; aonly one percent was younger than fifteen. Sixty-six
callers were Latino or of African or Caribbean descent; twenty-two percent were
white.

In a blog on
Salon headlined, “I Help Teenagers Get Secret Abortions,” an anonymous attorney
that works with Jane’s Due Process describes the kind of calls she received as
a hotline volunteer:

The very first
call I took … was from a 17 year old who said bluntly, ‘My mom’s in jail and my
dad’s in Iraq” she was living with her older sister who was 22, but the clinics
were not allowed to accept the sister’s consent because she was not the legal
guardian. …
I even sent a
girl to Kansas once; she was a marathon runner and a track star.  She lost
her period every year during training season and so really did not know she was
pregnant until the middle of the second trimester. (Ed note: Texas criminalizes abortions after 21 weeks) Her parents
were hard-core religious, and she knew that they would turn her out on the
streets no matter what happened with the pregnancy.  She didn’t want to be
homeless.”

Many called
Jane’s Due Process asking about abortion funding and about child support issues
as well as for bypass support, and many called from outside of the state. Tina
directs non-Texas callers to their local Planned Parenthood clinics.
Non-residents can receive bypasses in Texas, though they will then also have to
have their abortion in Texas. Minors from Oklahoma and Louisiana often come in
for this process. Meanwhile, minors in far west Texas often go to New Mexico
for their procedure where there is no parental notification law.

Tina said that
the “majority of girls (who call the hotline) are on birth control, but got
pregnant anyway.” Among callers that said they were not using a condom, “72 percent
reported that their partner actively refused or chose not to wear a condom,”
according to the organization’s most recent annual report.

“Most minors who
call are in school and are getting an excellent education,” Tina said. “There’s
a misperception that it’s just low-performing minors that get pregnant.”

Bartelt, too,
reported that the young women served by the Illinois Judicial Bypass
Coordination Project are more varied than commonly believed.

“This (hotline) is
for young women who feel trapped, who feel they can’t notify their
parents–that they’d be kicked out of the house or forced to marry the father,”
Bartelt said. “Others have a great relationship with their family, but—because
their house just got foreclosed on, or a parent’s suffering depression—they
feel they can’t inform them right now,
because it would break (their parents).”

While Bartelt
said that the Illinois bypass project is intended to “make it as easy as
possible for (young women) to comply with the law,” and that its swift
development is “a testament to the community—lawyers and non-lawyers who are
aware of how hard this can be for young women, how traumatizing it is,” Bartelt
emphasizes moving through the process isn’t a simple thing, no matter how much
support exists.

“It’s hard. It’s
not easy telling multiple strangers about your sex life and your family,” she
said.

But there are
thousands of young people across the country that feel that the difficulty of
revealing intimate details of their lives notwithstanding, it is their best
choice. And in at least a handful of states, they don’t have to go it alone.

Commentary Violence

This is Not The Story I Wanted—But It’s My Story of Rape

Dani Kelley

Writer Dani Kelley thought she had shed the patriarchal and self-denying lessons of her conservative religious childhood. But those teachings blocked her from initially admitting that an encounter with a man she met online was not a "date" that proved her sexual liberation, but an extended sexual assault.

Content note: This article contains graphic descriptions of sexual violence.

The night I first truly realized something was wrong was supposed to be a good night.

A visiting friend and I were in pajamas, eating breakfast food at 10 p.m., wrapped in blankets while swapping stories of recent struggles and laughs.

There I was, animatedly telling her about my recently acquired (and discarded) “fuck buddy,” when suddenly the story caught in my throat.

When I finally managed to choke out the words, they weren’t what I expected to say. “He—he held me down—until, until I couldn’t—breathe.”

Hearing myself say it out loud was a gut-punch. I was sobbing, gasping for breath, arms wrapped as if to hold myself together, spiraling into a terrifying realization.

This isn’t the story I wanted.

Unlearning My Training

I grew up in the Plymouth Brethren movement, a small fundamentalist Christian denomination that justifies strict gender roles through a literal approach to the Bible. So, according to 1 Corinthians 11:7, men are considered “the image and glory of God,” while women are merely “the glory of man.” As a result, women are expected to wear head coverings during any church service, among other restrictions that can be best summed up by the apostle Paul in 1 Timothy 2:11-12: Women are never allowed to have authority over men.

If you’ve spent any number of years in conservative Christianity like I did, you’re likely familiar with the fundamentalist tendency to demonize that which is morally neutral or positive (like premarital sex or civil rights) while sugar-coating negative experiences. The sugar-coating can be twofold: Biblical principles are often used to shame or gaslight abuse victims (like those being shunned or controlled or beaten by their husbands) while platitudes are often employed to help members cope with “the sufferings of this present time,” assuring them that these tragedies are “not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”

In many ways, it’s easy to unlearn the demonization of humanity as you gain actual real-world experience refuting such flimsy claims. But the shame? That can be more difficult to shake.

The heart of those teachings isn’t only present in this admittedly small sect of Christianity. Rather, right-wing Western Christianity as a whole has a consent problem. It explicitly teaches its adherents they don’t belong to themselves at all. They belong to God (and if they’re not men, they belong to their fathers or husbands as well). This instilled lack of agency effectively erases bodily autonomy while preventing the development of healthy emotional and physical boundaries.

On top of that, the biblical literalism frequently required by conservative Christianity in the United States promotes a terrifying interpretation of Scripture, such as Jeremiah 17:9. The King James Version gives the verse a stern voice, telling us that “the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked.” If we believe this, we must accept that we’re untrustworthy witnesses to our own lives. Yet somehow, we’re expected to rely on the authority of those the Bible deems worthy. People like all Christians, older people, and men.

Though I’ve abandoned Christianity and embraced feminist secular humanism, the culture in which I grew up and my short time at conservative Bob Jones University still affect how I view myself and act in social situations. The lessons of my formative years created a perfect storm of terrible indoctrination: gender roles that promoted repressed individuality for women while encouraging toxic masculinity, explicit teaching that led to constant second-guessing my ability to accurately understand my own life, and a biblical impetus to “rejoice in my suffering.”

Decades of training taught me I’m not allowed to set boundaries.

But Some Habits Die Hard

Here’s the thing. At almost 30, I’d never dated anyone other than my ex-husband. So I thought it was about time to change that.

When I found this man’s online profile, I was pleasantly surprised. It was full of the kind of geekery I’m into, even down to the specific affinity for eclectic music. I wrote to him, making sure my message and tone were casual. He responded instantly, full of charisma and charm. Within hours, we’d made plans to meet.

He was just as friendly and attentive in person. After wandering around town, window-shopping, and getting to know one another, he suggested we go to his favorite bar. As he drank (while I sipped water), he kept paying me compliments, slowly breaking the touch barrier. And honestly, I was enthralled—no one had paid attention to me like this in years.

When he suggested moving out to the car where we could be a little more intimate, I agreed. The rush of feeling desired was intoxicating. He seemed so focused on consent—asking permission before doing anything. Plus, he was quite straightforward about what he wanted, which I found exciting.

So…I brought him home.

This new and exciting “arrangement” lasted one week, during which we had very satisfying, attachment-free sex several times and after which we parted ways as friends.

That’s the story I told people. That’s the story I thought I believed. I’d been freed from the rigid expectations and restraints of my youth’s purity culture.

Now. You’re about to hear me say many things I know to be wrong. Many feminists or victim advocates almost certainly know the rationalizations and reactions I’m about to describe are both normal responses to abuse and a result of ingrained lies about sex in our culture. Not to mention evidence of the influence that right-wing conservatism can have on shaping self-actualization.

As I was telling people the story above, I left out important details. Were my omissions deliberate? An instinctive self-preservation mechanism? A carryover from draconian ideals about promiscuity?

When I broke down crying with my friend, I finally realized I’d kept quiet because I couldn’t bear to hear myself say what happened.

I’m a feminist, damn it. I left all the puritanical understandings of gender roles behind when I exited Christianity! I even write about social justice and victim advocacy. I ought to recognize rape culture!

Right?

If only being a socially aware feminist was enough to erase decades of socialization as a woman within rape culture—or provide inoculation against sexual violence.

That first night, once we got to my car, he stopped checking in with me. I dismissed the red flag as soon as I noticed it, telling myself he’d stop if I showed discomfort. Then he smacked my ass—hard. I pulled away, staring at him in shocked revulsion. “Sorry,” he replied, smirking.

He suggested that we go back to my house, saying we’d have more privacy than at his place. I was uneasy, unconvinced. But he began passionately kissing, groping, petting, and pleading. Against my better judgment, I relented.

Yet, in the seclusion of my home, there was no more asking. There was only telling.

Before I knew it, I’d been thrown on my back as he pulled off my clothes. I froze. The only coherent thought I could manage was a weak stammer, asking if he had a condom. He seemed agitated. “Are you on birth control?” That’s not the point! I thought, mechanically answering “yes.”

With a triumphant grin and no further discussion, he forced himself into me. Pleasure fought with growing panic as something within me screamed for things to slow down, to just stop. The sensation was familiar: identical to how I felt when raped as a child.

I frantically pushed him off and rolled away, hyperventilating. I muttered repeatedly, “I need a minute. Just give me a minute. I need a minute.”

“We’re not finished yet!” he snapped angrily. As he reached for me again, I screeched hysterically, “I’M NOT OK! I NEED A MINUTE!”

Suddenly, he was kind and caring. Instead of being alarmed, I was strangely grateful. So once I calmed down, I fucked him. More than once.

It was—I told myself—consensual. After all, he comforted me during a flashback. Didn’t I owe him that much?

Yet, if I didn’t do what he wanted, he’d forcefully smack my ass. If I didn’t seem happy enough, he’d insistently tell me to smile as he hit me again, harder. He seemed to relish the strained smile I would force on command.

I kept telling myself I was okay. Happy, even. Look at how liberated I was!

All week, I was either at his beck and call or fighting suicidal urges. Never having liked alcohol before, I started drinking heavily. I did all I could to minimize or ignore the abuse. Even with his last visit—as I fought to breathe while he forcefully held my head down during oral sex, effectively choking me—I initially told myself desperately that surely he wouldn’t do any of this on purpose.

The Stories We Tell and The Stories That Just Are

Reflecting on that week, I’m engulfed in shame. I’m a proud feminist. I know what coercion looks like. I know what rape looks like. I know it’s rarely a scary man wearing a ski mask in a back alley. I’ve heard all the victim-blaming rape apologia you have: that women make up rape when they regret consenting to sex, or going on a date means sex is in the cards, or bringing someone home means you’re game for anything.

Reality is, all of us have been socialized within a patriarchal system that clouds our experiences and ability to classify them. We’re told to tend and befriend the men who threaten us. De-escalation at any cost is the go-to response of almost any woman I’ve ever talked to about unwanted male attention. Whatever will satiate the beast and keep us safe.

On top of that, my conservative background whispered accusations of being a Jezebel, failing to safeguard my purity, and getting exactly what I deserve for forsaking the faith.

It’s all lies, of course. Our culture lies when it says that there are blurred lines when it comes to consent. It violates our personhood when it requires us to change the narrative of the violence enacted against us for their own comfort. Right-wing Christianity lies when it says we don’t belong to ourselves and must submit to the authority of a religion or a gender.

Nobody’s assaulted because they weren’t nice enough or because they “failed” to de-escalate. There’s nothing we can do to provoke such violence. Rape is never deserved. The responsibility for sexual assault lies entirely with those who attack us.

So why was the story I told during and after that ordeal so radically and fundamentally different from what actually happened? And why the hell did I think any of what happened was OK?

Rape myths are so ingrained in our cultural understanding of relationships that it was easier for me to believe nothing bad had happened than to accept the truth. I thought if I could only tell the story I wanted it to be, then maybe that’s what really happened. I thought if I was willing—if I kept having him over, if I did what he ordered, if I told my friends how wonderful it was—it would mean everything was fine. It would mean I wasn’t suffering from post-traumatic stress or anxiety about defying the conservative tenets of my former political and religious system.

Sometimes, we tell ourselves the stories we want to hear until we’re able to bear the stories of what actually happened.

We all have a right to say who has what kind of access to our bodies. A man’s masculinity gives him no authority over anyone’s sexual agency. A lack of a “no” doesn’t mean a “yes.” Coercion isn’t consent. Sexual acts performed without consent are assault. We have a right to tell our stories—our real stories.

So, while this isn’t the story I wanted, it’s the story that is.

I was raped.

News Economic Justice

Anti-Union ‘Right-to-Work’ Laws Have Passed in Majority of States

Teddy Wilson

These laws have had negative effects on wages, income, and access to health care for people who work in states that have seen legislators attack collective bargaining.

When West Virginia’s so-called right-to-work law takes effect in May, the majority of states will have laws designed to strip labor unions of their collective bargaining rights.

West Virginia Republican lawmakers in February overrode Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin’s (D) veto of SB 1, which prohibits employers from requiring workers to pay union dues as a condition of their employment.

Opponents of “right-to-work” policies argue that they allow workers who are not union members—known as free riders—to benefit from the union’s bargaining without having to contribute financially.

Senate Minority Leader Jeff Kessler (D-Marshall) said during floor debate before the veto override vote that the legislation was an attack on people who work and their families.

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“Some would say this is a historic day for West Virginia,” Kessler said, reported the Gazette-Mail. “I submit to you that it is a horrific day. This is not based on any empirical evidence; this is based on a political attack upon unions, upon workers, upon families, upon our communities.”

West Virginia joins Indiana, Michigan, and Wisconsin as states that have passed laws targeting labor unions in recent years. 

Anti-union laws have been pushed by legislation mills like the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), and lawmakers have introduced bills based on copycat legislation drafted by ALEC.

Legislators who push “right-to-work” measures charge that people who work shouldn’t have to pay labor union dues. 

However, these laws have had negative effects on wages, income, access to health care, and other measures of quality of life for people who work in states that have seen legislators attack collective bargaining. 

People who work in states with anti-union “right-to-work” measures make on average $5,971 (12.2 percent) less annually than workers in states without those laws, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Almost 26 percent of jobs in so-called right-to-work states are in low-wage occupations, compared with 18 percent of jobs in other states, according to the Corporation for Enterprise Development.

The National Labor Relations Board, the federal agency overseeing labor laws, announced last year that it would take a closer look at laws from across the country designed to curtail collective bargaining.