Judge puts restraining order on Illinois law on parental notification for abortion

Thursday, November 5, 2009

CHICAGO -- Just hours after a state board voted Wednesday to allow the enforcement of a long-debated Illinois law requiring a teenage girl's parents be notified before she has an abortion, a judge issued a temporary restraining order putting the measure back on hold.

The order will remain in effect until the judge can hear arguments on the issue. Cook County Judge Daniel Riley said he felt the American Civil Liberties Union, which sought the order, "demonstrated the distinct possibility of irreparable harm."

Illinois' law was passed in 1995 but never enforced because of various court actions. Thirty-five other states have similar laws, which meant some teens seeking abortions came to Illinois for them.

"This is a dumping ground for other states," said Joseph Scheidler, national director of the Pro-Life Action League. "You go look at the license plates at the abortion clinics."

Allowing the law to take effect raised the possibility that "young women in this state would be abused, they would be kicked out of their homes," Lorie Chaiten, head of the Illinois ACLU's reproductive rights project, said after the court hearing.

Assistant Illinois attorney general Thomas Ioppolo argued against the restraining order.

"Why does Illinois have to have a law that doesn't take the parents into account?" Ioppolo said. "The idea of having parental notification serves legitimate interests."

Earlier Wednesday, the state's Medical Disciplinary Board had voted not to extend a 90-day grace period on the law that had been put in place in August. Susan Hofer, a spokeswoman for the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation, said that vote meant the law had gone into effect. After Riley's ruling, though, Hofer said the department is barred from enforcing it.

Thomas Brejcha, president of the Chicago-based Thomas Moore Society Pro-Life Law Center, called Illinois is "an island of abortion in the Midwest."

The law requires doctors to notify the parents or guardians of girls 17 or younger 48 hours before the teens get abortions. It requires no notice in a medical emergency or in cases of sexual abuse, and a provision allows girls to bypass parental notification by going to a judge.

Planned Parenthood of Illinois has been providing notification since August, spokeswoman Beth Kanter said. If a teen said she wasn't comfortable letting a parent or guardian know, Planned Parenthood had referred her to another provider who was using the grace period, Kanter said. After the judge's Wednesday ruling, Kanter said notification would no longer be provided.

"We believe that government cannot and should not mandate this communication," Kanter said. "Most teens do seek their parents' advice and counsel ... but in some cases safe and open communication isn't possible."

The Parental Notice of Abortion Act was not enforced when it was passed because the Illinois Supreme Court refused to issue rules spelling out how judges should handle appeals of the notification requirement. The court issued those rules in 2006.

But last year, a federal judge again refused to allow enforcement, saying the law still failed to give teenagers workable judicial options to notifying their parents. In July, a federal appeals court lifted the injunction on the 1995 version. Then in August, the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation granted doctors the 90-day grace period.

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