September 3, 2010

Pro-Life Hopes for Illinois Parental Notice Law Dashed by Court

      Demonstration from McHenry County

Pro-life attorneys hoping anxiously for a speedy conclusion to the legal battle over the state's long-delayed Parental Notice of Abortion Act, saw their hopes dashed when the state Supreme Court refused to transfer the case to their immediate jurisdiction.

The high court denied a motion by the pro-life legal advocacy group Thomas More Society to bypass the appellate court and hear the case brought against the Illinois Parental Notice of Abortion Act of 1995. The act is being challenged by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

"We're obviously disappointed with this ruling, but we remain committed to doing everything we possibly can to bring these appeals to a speedy and positive conclusion," said Tom Brejcha, president and chief counsel of the Thomas More Society.

The pro-life attorneys based their motion on a Supreme Court rule that allows transfer of cases to the high court directly when the "public interest requires prompt adjudication." Without the Supreme Court's intervention, they anticipated the case would not see a decision from the First District of the Illinois Appellate Court for at least a year, meaning more secret abortions on minors would end up being performed in the state.

Two members of the state Supreme Court, Justices Robert R. Thomas and Thomas L. Kilbride, showed interest in concluding quickly the 15-year-long legal battle over the Act, and voiced their dissent to the majority's order.

With the transfer motion denied, the First District of Illinois Appellate Court will continue to oversee the case. Thomas More Society attorneys will file their opening appeal brief on Friday.

Brejcha said two courts, the 7th US Court of Appeals and Cook County Circuit Court, have both rendered judgments against the ACLU's legal challenges to the law, indicating the ACLU's case is "legally meritless." He argued that the law should be enforced, not suspended, until the ACLU's appeal was resolved.

Judge Daniel Riley of the Cook County Circuit Court dismissed the lawsuit brought against the Act by the American Civil Liberties Union this past March, ruling the Act constitutionally valid. While he viewed the 1970 Illinois State Constitution as including a right to abortion, he said the Act should stand since the Illinois right to abortion is not broader than the federal right, thereby allowing for certain restrictions.  
However, Riley issued an indefinite stay on his order for the duration of the ACLU's legal appeal.

The Thomas More Society believes the state Supreme Court will likely rule in favor of the law. Five years ago, the Supreme Court created a court bypass procedure designed to make the law constitutional in Illinois.

In November 2009, the ACLU intervened in court to strike down the parental notice law on the very day it was finally supposed to go into full effect. Both the Illinois Medical Disciplinary Board and the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation had decided to enforce the pro-life law without further delay when the ACLU intervened.

Since the passage of the Parental Notice of Abortion Act in 1995, over 50,000 Illinois girls below the age of majority have obtained abortions, more than 4,000 of whom were 14 years old or younger, without any requirement to notify their parents beforehand.

However, Illinois is also an abortion oasis in the Midwest for those looking to transport minors across state lines for abortion without their parent's knowledge or consent. In the Midwest, only Illinois lacks a parental notification or consent law for a minor seeking abortion. 

Contact: Peter J. Smith
Date Published: September 2, 2010