A Promising First Step in Protecting Illinois Teenagers’ Health and Safety


In a legal challenge brought by the ACLU, an Illinois state court yesterday issued an emergency order blocking a law that prevents teens from having an abortion unless they notify a parent or go to court. This victory ensures that teens throughout Illinois will continue to be safe and able to obtain the care that they need.

The truth is that most teens already turn to their parents when facing a pregnancy. This is what any of us would want as parents. Make no mistake: If enforced, this unconstitutional law would change nothing for those teens. Instead, the law endangers teenagers from dysfunctional families — those who face physical and emotional abuse, homelessness, and forced childbirth, among other things, if they tell their parents about their pregnancies.

The stories the ACLU submitted to the court make this point all too well:

  • One young woman described how her parents responded when her older sister became pregnant. Upon learning of the pregnancy, the father beat the older sister and threw her out of the house with all of her belongings. He then ordered the younger siblings to take the discarded things to a dumpster and demanded that they never speak to their sister again. Four years later, this young woman and her family still knew nothing of the sister’s whereabouts.
  • Other young women tell of being emotionally abused or beaten when their parents learn they are pregnant; some were involuntarily sent to live in another country to prevent them from having an abortion; and others were forced to give birth and become mothers against their will.

 

Proponents of parental notice laws acknowledge, as they must, that these kinds of situations exist, and that it would be unlawful to allow a parent to overrule a young woman’s right to decide whether and when to become a parent herself. Instead they point to the judicial bypass, which allows a teen to go to court in lieu of talking to her parents. But what kind of alternative is it to ask a pregnant teenager, one who is already feeling quite vulnerable, to find a lawyer, navigate an unfamiliar court system, and reveal the most intimate details of her life to a judge, a complete stranger. For many, especially those who are afraid or ashamed of revealing the abuse they experience at home, going to court is simply not an option.

Indeed, Jamie Sabino — a lawyer who has worked with minors seeking judicial bypasses in Massachusetts for more than 25 years — has many troubling stories to tell about the bypass process: One teen was at the courthouse for a bypass hearing when her sister’s class came through on a field trip. Another ran into her father outside the courthouse. One young woman successfully went through her bypass hearing; however days later, an anti-abortion group sent her parents a letter informing them that she had done so. They had monitored the courthouse and identified her from a school yearbook picture.

Although promising, yesterday’s injunction is only a first step. We will continue to fight this law in the weeks and months to come. In the meantime, instead of enforcing laws that do more harm than good, let’s start talking to our daughters and sons about making responsible and healthy decisions about sexuality; let’s help parents and teens communicate; and let’s ensure that every teen has a caring adult they can turn to for advice and support no matter what life challenges they may face.

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  • crowepps

    One young woman successfully went through her bypass hearing; however days later, an anti-abortion group sent her parents a letter informing them that she had done so. They had monitored the courthouse and identified her from a school yearbook picture.

    What thought process, if any, could this anti-abortion group possibly have used? Since these hearings are closed (private), for all they knew they were tattling to a father guilty of incestuous rape or a mother capable of murdering the girl. Identifying, harassing and publicly outing girls or women who have had or are believed to have had abortions is based in lust for punishment and is just plain STUPID. It smears the entire ProLife side with misogyny and hatred.

  • ahunt

    One young woman successfully went through her bypass hearing; however days later, an anti-abortion group sent her parents a letter informing them that she had done so. They had monitored the courthouse and identified her from a school yearbook picture.

    And…let us add the less drastic consequences of public humiliation, family estrangement, draconian restrictions and yes, corporal punishment. And let us make no mistake…acts like these are solely about punishment, and reveal the lie that anti-choicers are compelled by compassion.

  • crowepps

    Ran across this review of a book on judicial bypass and thought this excerpt worth sharing:

    The lengths to which judges will go to defy implementing bypass laws are exposed in Chapters 6 and 7. It is here that Silverstein catalogs the efforts of Alabama judges to engage in two types of judicial activism that place emotional hurdles in front of pregnant teens who seek abortions. One practice is to require teens to seek pro-life Christian counseling before holding the bypass hearing (pp.100-114). Ostensibly, this is done under the guise of ensuring that a girl engages in informed and rational decision making because they get “both sides” of the abortion debate. However, the reality of “getting the other side” effectively means getting forced religious counseling (p.104). In the cases described in the book, girls are referred to Sav-A-Life Outreach Centers, where they encounter evangelical entreaties along with a strong dose of pro-life messages. In Silverstein’s words, the teens are “subjected to religious interrogation in a setting where proselytizing is the main order of business” (p.113).

     

    The second hurdle that confronts young women in some bypass hearings is the appointment of “guardian attorneys” who represent the interests of the unborn fetus. With the presence of such attorneys, a hearing that routinely takes 30 minutes can stretch as long as four hours (pp.117-119). As such, pregnant teens who might have had to endure a difficult struggle against misinformation [*810] and hostility in getting access to the court, end up facing a hearing that presents hostile witnesses and hostile questioning from an avid pro-life attorney in front of a judge who is willing and ready to voice his/her own pro-life views. In such circumstances, the naked attitudinal behavior, so prominent on the U.S. Supreme Court, is just as vividly on display in a trial court setting.

    http://www.bsos.umd.edu/gvpt/lpbr/subpages/reviews/silverstein1007.htm

  • ahunt

    Crowepps, I know from some past experience that the judicial bypass option is often subject to the whims of the sitting judge, and that within states…the luck of the draw is crucial. However, and I need to find the blurbs…there is sound research indicating that judicial obstruction is also a reflection of national regions, with the judges in states south of the Mason-Dixon line more likely to impede a young woman’s access.

  • colleen

    acts like these are solely about punishment, and reveal the lie that anti-choicers are compelled by compassion.

    A week of reading the comments on this blog should be enough to convince any reasonable person of that.

    The only difference between the American anti-abortion movement and the Taliban is about 8,000 miles.

    Dr Warren Hern, MD