Illinois legislature repeals “last anti-abortion law on the books”

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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (NEXSTAR) — The Illinois House voted 62-51 late Wednesday night to repeal a 1995 law that requires doctors to inform parents when teen girls 17 and under seek an abortion.

Rep. Anna Moeller (D-Elgin), the lead sponsor of the proposal, described the Parental Notification Act as “the last anti-abortion law that we have on the books in Illinois.” Rep. Kelly Cassidy (D-Chicago), who sponsored the Reproductive Health Act in 2019, described the current notification law as a “gaping hole” in the state’s “firewall to protect reproductive health.”

Illinois Democrats have sought to respond to the recent abortion restrictions enacted in Texas. That law, which is being challenged before the U.S. Supreme Court, bans abortion after a heartbeat is detected, which is around six weeks into the pregnancy and before most women know they are pregnant.

“Anti-abortion politicians all across the country are seeking to curb our access to abortion for anyone and everyone,” Cassidy said during floor debate. “They literally want to just force us all to keep every pregnancy to term regardless of what’s happening, regardless of the risks to our lives. Illinois is different and it’s going to stay different, and we’re going to finish the work today by closing the loophole in our in our firewall.”

Democrats, who hold supermajorities in both the House and Senate, whipped barely enough votes to repeal the law, and are now poised to send it to Governor J.B. Pritzker’s desk. He has signaled he will sign it.

Pro-choice advocates who sponsored the measure said the current law has already forced more than 500 vulnerable pregnant teens from unsafe homes to endure an “unfair and dangerous burden” of going through a court process to seek a waiver from the notification law since it started being enforced in 2013.

“This is no easy, minor bureaucratic process,” Moeller said on the House floor. “This involves a young woman hiring an attorney on her own setting up a court date; finding a way to get to court standing in front of a judge in a courtroom that’s generally a venue for criminal activities; explaining why she’s pregnant; explaining why she needs to have an abortion, and why she can’t go to her parents to let them know about that.”

Republicans and religious leaders voiced strenuous objections to repealing the law, arguing the current notification requirements protect minors from abuse and human trafficking.

Rep. Chris Bos (R-Lake Zurich) said repealing the notification law “would further advance criminal enterprise by emboldening the pimps, the traffickers, those who rape and sexually assault and exploit these children.”

Moeller called those warnings and others like it “misleading and hyperbolic.”

Rep. Avery Bourne (R-Morrisonville) said other state laws requires teenagers to get their parents consent to get a tattoo or a piercing, go on a field trip, or take an Tylenol at school.

“Nobody over there wants to talk about the things you can do without contacting a parent,” Cassidy responded. “You can get pregnant, you can stay pregnant, you can give birth, you can have a C-section, you can give a child up for adoption, all without ever having anybody call your parents.”

Fighting back tears, Bourne said parents “deserve to know if their daughter’s considering an abortion.”

“This law was put into place to prevent women from having access to reproductive health care, plain and simple,” Moeller responded. “That was it. But now it’s being wrapped in this misleading hyperbole about parents. It’s a fiction.”

If the Governor signs the repeal, it would take effect on January 1, 2024.

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