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Teens seeking abortions in Illinois won’t need parental notification in 2022

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Karina Perez
/
NPR
The Parental Notice of Abortion Act is one of Illinois' last abortion restrictions.

For decades, advocates have worked to overturn Illinois’ Parental Notice of Abortion Act. Since 2013, the law has required parents or guardians to be notified when anyone 17 or under seeks an abortion in Illinois.

Last week, to the delight of those advocacy organizations, the Senate joined the Illinois House in repealing the notification law. Now HB 370, the Youth Health and Safety Act, heads to Gov. J.B. Pritzker's desk for final approval. With Pritzker saying he will sign the repeal, the Parental Notice of Abortion Act is set to come off the books in June 2022.

Dr. Erin King, executive director of Hope Clinic for Women, joined Tuesday’s St. Louis on the Air to discuss that development. She previously testified in support of the bill to Illinois lawmakers.

Dr. Erin King, an abortion provider, discusses why she pushed for the repeal, and how it will affect her practice.

King noted that in Illinois, pregnant minors can make decisions about prenatal care, consent to a C-section, decide whether to place their baby for adoption, get vaccines during pregnancy or take other medications — without their parents knowing.

Even so, King said that most teens seeking abortion discuss it with an adult even without the law’s requirements.

“Most minors already involved a parent,” King said. “The people who weren't involving a parent before this law went into effect did not feel comfortable with whoever qualified as a parent under this law. They had other trusted adults that they would rather talk about this very, very private health care decision with.”

Tuesday's program included comments from Eric Scheidler, executive director of the Pro-Life Action League, who opposed the repeal.

Scheidler and King agreed on one point: The repeal will make a big difference for some teens.

“The Parental Notice of Abortion Act was saving a couple thousand lives every single year, and the reason for that is that so many women, including the young women who used to be covered by this law, really don't want abortion,” Scheidler said. “They are looking for any reason not to go through with it, looking for any kind of a sign, any kind of an excuse. And the mere fact that Planned Parenthood or another abortion provider would be informing one of their parents that the abortion was taking place has been enough to convince thousands of girls not to go through with abortions.”

But while King agreed that the notification law stopped some young women from having an abortion, she said she sees things differently. “I am not advocating for people to have an abortion because I want more people to have an abortion,” she said. “I want people who've made that decision for themselves, maybe with a partner, their parents, maybe a different trusted adult, their physician, if they think that at this point in their life they cannot be a parent, they cannot be pregnant, then they need to have the least amount of barriers to access safe care.”

Emily Werth, a staff attorney with the ACLU of Illinois, agreed with King that enacting the Youth Health and Safety Act is a step in the right direction, but said there's still a ways to go.

“There are a lot of barriers that people within Illinois you can still experience to accessing abortion care,” she said. Among them are transportation issues and getting health insurance to cover abortion costs.

“There are lots of people still who maybe should have insurance coverage, but they're being denied wrongfully that we need to resolve those. So even with very strong laws on the books, which we will have once the Parental Notice of Abortion Act goes away in Illinois, there are many, many other practical barriers that we need to be vigilant about making sure that people have the resources and the support and the information to overcome,” she said.

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is hosted by Sarah Fenske and produced by Alex Heuer, Emily Woodbury, Evie Hemphill and Lara Hamdan. Jane Mather-Glass is our production assistant. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr.

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Lara is a producer for "St. Louis on the Air" at St. Louis Public Radio.

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