Is loosening Illinois' parental notification law enough?

A new bill could allow Illinois minors to notify relatives other than their parents, a clergy member or a medical professional.

Published October 6, 2006 10:29PM (EDT)

Thanks to a new bill, it's possible that Illinois girls will be able to skirt the state's recently unearthed parental notification law by instead notifying a clergy member, a medical professional or a family member. Shall we celebrate?

Maybe, but hold off on the victory parade. Rep. John Fritchey said this week that he has secured bipartisan support for the bill, which shoots for a realistic compromise on parental consent, the Associated Press reports. Pregnant minors would be required to notify an approved figure, and receive counseling on "prenatal care, carrying a pregnancy to term and adoption," according to the AP. While Planned Parenthood says the bill falls perfectly in line with current protocol at its clinics, it seems there's also room for multiple interpretations of what this counseling could entail, which could open the door for misinformation like that provided at exploitative crisis pregnancy centers.

The other possible downside to the bill is that it still places barriers between pregnant girls and termination services -- girls would still have to fill out paperwork and obtain signed documentation of counseling sessions, while possibly missing school or work (all the while carrying unwanted pregnancies). Depending on how the bill gets enacted, this could be a minor inconvenience or a major deterrent. But ultimately, there still lurks the idea that minors shouldn't make independent decisions about their reproductive options. If a teen knows she wants an abortion -- and she doesn't trust the adults around her enough to confide in them -- why should the state say it knows better than she does?

And Illinois' parental consent law faces an obstacle of its own: A federal judge has to first strike down a 1996 ban on the law before it can actually be enacted. This new bill doesn't seem a perfect solution -- at least not until the actual conditions of the medical counseling are made explicitly clear. But it is the best available alternative to mandatory parental notification. So for that, we'll celebrate.

By Tracy Clark-Flory

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