Teen abortion rules are upheld - State House rejects easing restrictions
By Jeffrey Meitrodt and Monique Garcia
Copyright © 2007, Chicago Tribune
Published April 27, 2007
SPRINGFIELD -- After a divisive and emotional debate, the House narrowly rejected a bill Thursday that would have made it easier for minors to get an abortion without telling their parents.
The legislation would have allowed teens to get an abortion after consulting with a medical provider, such as a physician, licensed nurse, clinical psychologist or clinical social worker. Parents would not have been informed of their daughter's decision to seek an abortion, even if the medical practitioner thought she was too immature to make an informed choice.
The measure, which failed on a 55-62 vote, would have overhauled a long-dormant state law that prohibits minors from obtaining abortions without notifying a parent, stepparent, legal guardian or grandparent. Minors could bypass the notification requirement by going before a county judge and explaining why they believed notification was not in their best interests. The notice requirement also would be waived for victims of sexual abuse, physical abuse or neglect by either parent.The General Assembly passed the law in 1995, but it never went into effect because the state Supreme Court refused to issue rules to govern how minors could seek waivers in special circumstances. The Illinois Supreme Court finally issued those rules last year, but a federal judge ruled in February that the law can't be enforced yet because rules and procedures have not been put in effect in all 102 counties. He did not rule on the law's constitutionality.
Rep. John Fritchey (D-Chicago) said he sponsored the bill because he thinks many young girls do not feel comfortable seeking advice from a forbidding authority figure like a judge and would prefer to discuss options with a family doctor or some other medical practitioner.
"It's not only bad girls who get themselves pregnant and are looking for an easy way out," Fritchey said. "It is good girls who can't bring themselves to tell their parents. That is what this is about."
Fritchey said the bill wasn't necessarily a "pro-choice bill" because medical practitioners would have been required to explain the medical consequences of abortion and discuss other options, including adoption or carrying the baby to term. Fritchey said he believed many young girls would ultimately decide against abortion once they got such advice.
But opponents assailed the proposal, saying parents have an absolute right to be involved in what could be the most important decision in their daughter's lives. They said it is ridiculous to restrict a minor's ability to get a tattoo or use a tanning bed without parental consent, but allow them to terminate a pregnancy without telling their parents.
"I gotta tell you, I am pro-choice," said Rep. Robert Molaro (D-Chicago). He said a parent should not be able to stop abortion but, as a father, "I thought I should be notified."
In other action, the House voted 72-43 to send the Senate legislation to create a cell-phone lemon law. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Susana Mendoza (D-Chicago), would allow customers to cancel their service contracts without paying early-termination fees if a phone must be replaced or repaired at least three times within a contract period.
The House also defeated two measures aimed at tightening gun laws. One would have required a private seller to conduct a background check before transferring ownership of a handgun to anyone except an immediate family member.
Opponents said the legislation was redundant since legal gun owners must have a Firearm Owner's Identification Card, which already requires background checks. The measure failed on a 58-59 vote.
The second measure would have required state police to regulate gun dealers, which is currently handled at the federal level. The bill's sponsor, Rep. Deborah Graham (D-Chicago), said federal inspectors are stretched too thin and allowing state police to randomly inspect gun dealers' records would prevent illegal sales. The bill failed 51-66.