Illinois state lawmakers have voted to repeal a harmful abortion restriction that forced anyone under age 18 to involve a parent in an abortion decision, Human Rights Watch said today. Governor J. B. Pritzker should sign the bill into law without delay.
The Youth Health and Safety Act passed the state Senate on October 26, 2021 by a vote of 32 to 22 and the state House of Representatives on October 27 by a vote of 62 to 51. The bill created a bipartisan working group to identify resources for pregnant and parenting youth, and repealed the Parental Notice of Abortion Act (PNA). That law forced anyone under 18 seeking abortion care to involve an adult family member or go to court to seek permission to have an abortion without family involvement, in an arduous process known as “judicial bypass.” Human Rights Watch and the ACLU of Illinois investigated the PNA law’s impacts and concluded that it violated human rights in a March 2021 report.
“Illinois legislators defended rights and dignity this week by repealing a dangerous law that put young people in harm’s way and interfered in their ability to safely access abortion care,” said Margaret Wurth, senior researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Other US states should follow Illinois’s example and get rid of harmful forced parental involvement laws.”
The Human Rights Watch and ACLU of Illinois report was based on analysis of data regarding the experiences of 192 young people who went through judicial bypass in Illinois in recent years, as well as in-depth interviews with 37 people, including lawyers and healthcare providers.
Most young people involve a parent or another trusted adult in their abortion decision, even when the law does not require it. Those who do not often have grave concerns that involving a parent will expose them to harm and result in physical or emotional abuse, loss of housing or financial support, or the forced continuation of an unwanted pregnancy.
Forcing young people in these circumstances to go to court and obtain a judge’s permission to get an abortion without parental involvement undermines their safety and dignity and can delay their access to time-sensitive care, Human Rights Watch said.
The Human Rights Watch and ACLU research showed that the burden of the law in Illinois fell disproportionately on Black, Indigenous, and other young people of color, who constituted the majority of those under 18 who went through judicial bypass in the state in recent years.
The Illinois General Assembly’s vote is especially significant given other US states’ unprecedented moves to restrict abortion rights this year. In September, a cruel and extreme abortion ban took effect in Texas, prohibiting nearly all abortion after about six weeks of pregnancy. The US Supreme Court agreed to hear oral arguments on the law beginning November 1. Anti-abortion legislators in Florida and other states have already moved to introduce copycat legislation.
The Supreme Court will also soon hear oral arguments in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, a case concerning a Mississippi abortion restriction that could have significant implications for abortion rights nationwide. Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and Global Justice Center submitted a friend of the court brief arguing that the United States’ international human rights obligations require the US to provide abortion access.
Illinois Senator Elgie Sims, Jr., and Representative Anna Moeller championed the fight to repeal Illinois’s parental notice requirement.
“Young people have the right to access safe abortion care, and Illinois’s leaders voted to protect that right,” Wurth said. “For some young people, the consequences of parental involvement laws like PNA can be catastrophic.”