In its misleading support for Illinois' long-dormant, dangerous and unnecessary parental notification of abortion law, the Tribune blithely tosses out every tired canard imaginable ("Time for parent notice," Editorial, Nov. 3). As a result, the Tribune obscures the act's detrimental consequences for a small group of young women placed at risk if this law is enforced. These defects in the law have led the ACLU of Illinois to challenge forced parental-involvement laws for more than three decades.
To begin, the Tribune suggests that the law is "sensible" and "temperate," aimed solely at ensuring and encouraging familial communication. As the mother of a 17-year-old daughter, I understand the importance of family communication and support. This is why the data tell us that most young women voluntarily tell a parent about an unplanned pregnancy and that the younger the teen, the more likely she is to tell her parents. Sadly the data also show that when a young woman does not involve her parents, she has a good reason. Many teens live each day with the threat of parental abuse. As we approached the possible enforcement date of the law, physicians across the state of Illinois shared with us their fears about the impact of the law on teens who suffer parental abuse and fear more maltreatment if a pregnancy were disclosed.
The Tribune expresses concern that a teen is not mature enough to make an important medical decision without involving her parents. But this argument disregards existing Illinois law, as well as the real-life experiences of teens from dysfunctional families and of judges in other states who hear teens' requests for waivers from similar notice requirements -- often because teens fear abuse at the hands of parents.
Current Illinois law entrusts a pregnant minor to make every other medical decision without involving a parent or a court.
The State of Illinois has long entrusted pregnant minors to make every medical decision on their own, in consultation with trained medical professionals. A minor can consent to a cesarean section. She can consent to intrauterine surgery. She can consent to take medication for an illness unrelated to her pregnancy that could have a lasting detrimental impact on the health of her fetus. Moreover, if she carries a pregnancy to term and becomes a parent, she can consent to all medical care for her own child. She even can choose to place her child for adoption without involving her parents. Illinois law also authorizes teens who are not pregnant to make critical medical decisions on their own. A teen currently can seek medical care for a large number of issues, including psychiatric care and substance-abuse treatment, without parental notice.
Only if a young woman chooses a safe and legal abortion does the state impose this requirement that we know to cause significant risk of personal harm and medically risky delay. It is for this reason that every leading medical organization opposes forced parental-notification laws.
The judicial hearing available in lieu of parental notification for teens who cannot tell their parents demonstrates that these teens are mature, not that they need parental or court involvement.
Laws like Illinois' parental-notification law may seem sensible for those not engaged with the complicated realities of families in our state. They are not sensible for young women.