The Corner

Pro-Lifers Get Good News from Illinois

Today the Illinois Supreme Court upheld a state parental-notification law. This law was signed back in 1995, but has been enjoined since that time due to a hydra-headed array of legal challenges. This particular parental-involvement law is not as strong as some others because it allows a minor seeking an abortion to notify a grandmother, a stepparent, or a legal guardian. However, a relatively weak law is better than no law. Every state which borders Illinois is enforcing a parental-involvement law. Hard data is difficult to obtain, but it is likely a significant number of minors in nearby states seek abortions in Illinois. A 2008 LiveAction video showed an abortion provider in Bloomington, Indiana, encouraging a minor to obtain an abortion in Illinois.

The fact that over 30 other states are enforcing parental-involvement laws is a testament to the good work done by both pro-life activists and pro-life lawyers around the country. These laws frequently face legal challenges. In fact, parental-involvement laws in Georgia, Minnesota, Mississippi, South Dakota, and Tennessee were all delayed for extended periods of time due to legal challenges. Furthermore, there is a chance that the Illinois Supreme Court’s ruling will be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. Supreme Court decisions on abortion-related issues are often unpredictable. However, previous Supreme Court rulings in H.L. v. Matheson and Planned Parenthood v. Casey have upheld the constitutionality of parental-involvement laws.

Overall, there is a nice body of academic research which indicates that parental-involvement laws are effective. At least 17 academic studies, analyzing different states, have found that parental-involvement laws reduce minor abortion rates. The best study of a parental-involvement law appeared in The New England Journal of Medicine in 2006. It analyzed the Texas parental-notice law which took effect in 2000. It found that the Texas law reduced minor abortion rates. It also found that months after the law took effect, there was a slight, but statistically significant, increase in the minor birth rate. This indicates that due to the law, some minors were carrying their pregnancy to term, instead of having an abortion. As such, this Illinois law should go a long way toward protecting minors and their unborn children.

Michael J. New is a visiting assistant professor of social research and political science at the Catholic University of America and an associate scholar at the Charlotte Lozier Institute in Washington, D.C.

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