SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — The Illinois Supreme Court ended a lengthy and emotionally charged legal appeal over an abortion notification law Thursday, clearing the way for the state to begin enforcing a 1995 measure that requires doctors to notify a girl's parents 48 hours before the procedure.
The court ruled unanimously to uphold a circuit court's earlier dismissal of a challenge to the law that was filed by a Granite City women's health clinic and a doctor at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
After court battles that lasted nearly two decades, Illinois now joins 38 other states in requiring some level of parental notification. The law goes into effect in 35 days unless it's appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which has found such laws to be constitutional elsewhere.
Opponents of the notification law had argued that it violated privacy and gender equality rights because young women should be able to make their own decisions about their bodies and pregnancies. Supporters of the law, which was defended by the Illinois Attorney General's office, argued that parents would be deprived of basic rights if they were not notified of a daughter's decision to have an abortion.
Anti-abortion activists have long said Illinois was a haven for teens from states with stricter laws on the books seeking abortions.
"If you look at the map, from Canada to Mexico, we were the only state (in the central U.S.) that did not have parental notification," said Peter Breen, a lawyer for the Thomas More Society, which defended the law in court.
In its opinion, the state's high court found that the law did not violate principles of due process or equal protection and noted how the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld such laws.
"We find that, while a minor clearly has an expectation of privacy in her medical information, which includes the fact of her pregnancy, the intrusion on the minor's privacy occasioned by the Act is not unreasonable," wrote Justice Anne Burke. "The state has an interest in ensuring that a minor is sufficiently mature and well-informed to make the difficult decision whether to have an abortion."
The Parental Notice of Abortion Act requires doctors of girls 17 and younger to notify a parent 48 hours before an abortion. Parents must sign a form acknowledging they've been notified, and the form becomes a permanent part of the girl's medical record. A young woman can get a waiver if a judge says notification is against her best interest, including in cases of sexual abuse.
Lawyers for the ACLU, who argued the clinic's case, said they are discussing any possibility of further challenges to the law. Abortion providers, though, said they would begin focusing on how to comply with the law within the next five weeks.
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