It’s hard to image a more difficult circumstance a teenage girl can face
than an unplanned pregnancy.
Reasonable people can disagree about the propriety of abortion. But the unfortunate reality is that the political debate that surrounds it most often degenerates into extremes that invoke absolutes — unadulterated public evil or undeniable public good.
That was the case last week in Springfield, when legislators voted to repeal the statute under which the parents of underage girls who become pregnant must be notified of a planned abortion.
Experts say that in most instances like this, parents are brought voluntarily into the conversation. Proponents of the repeal assert there are other, sadder cases in which a parent or parents do not play a meaningful, positive role in their child’s life and, as a consequence, do not deserve to be or cannot be brought into the notification process.
The law legislators just voted to repeal contemplates that circumstance, creating the option of a bypass in which a judge can be asked to clear the way for the procedure to terminate a pregnancy. Although at least two judges were critical of its procedures, bypass is a viable option.
Needless to say, the legislative debate was explosive, each side ratcheting up its rhetoric. It’s probably impossible to separate the notification — not permission — issue from the politics and emotions that drive the abortion debate.
Nonetheless, let’s boil the question down to its essence — should Illinois law allow parents to be excluded from their minor children’s deliberations on abortion?
How many parents are comfortable with the idea that they are deemed legally irrelevant at the same time other adults unrelated to the pregnant girl can guide her through this procedure?
Consider the issue in this context: An underage girl who wants to have her ears pierced, a minor event, must get parental permission or wait until she’s a legal adult (age 18) to decide for herself. There are all kinds of legal provisions under which underage children must obtain parental permission to pursue medical and non-medical activities.
But under the new law, an underage girl can decide on her own to get an abortion without parental notification.
The state of Illinois, through its legislative body and governor, is asserting that it knows best when it comes to identify the players in this drama.
One need not be an uncompromising abortion opponent to object to that kind of heavy-handed intervention in a child-parent relationship, which now just needs Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s signature to become law in 2022.