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First minor challenging the state’s newly implemented abortion law

A minor wanting to get an abortion without notifying her parents is the first to challenge a state law that took effect Aug. 15 after nearly two decades of litigation.

Richard Muniz, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois, said he expects many more minors to try to bypass the parent notification law, which state legislators approved in 1995.

“We’re not talking about a small number of women here … we’re expecting these cases to be in the hundreds,” Muniz said.

His organization has been preparing for this law to take effect by creating a hotline and training volunteers. The ACLU has trained 30 to 40 volunteers on the specifics of the law and the steps needed for a minor to obtain a judicial bypass, Muniz said.

The ACLU also has been recruiting and educating lawyers about the law as well as informing primary care providers and clinics of their role in the process. Muniz expects most of the individuals referred to the ACLU’s hotline will be from medical practitioners.

The ACLU has between 60 and 70 lawyers but is looking to recruit more, “especially Downstate,” Muniz said.

Paul Linton, special counsel for The Thomas More Society, said this process of “preparing” a minor for judicial bypass disregards the purpose of the law.

“Their goal is to provide the minor with a script … and to corroborate with abortion clinics to create this script,” Linton said.

Linton, whose group worked for years to get the law implemented, noted that parents have to be notified, but they do not have to give consent for the minor to go through with the procedure.

Robert Gilligan, executive director of the Catholic Conference of Illinois, said, “I think it is going to save lives.”

“One thing missed in this debate is the long-term emotional effects on the young woman,” Gilligan said.

But ACLU members say forcing a young woman to inform one of her parents or a legal guardian about her decision to have an abortion can endanger her far more.

“Most young women share their decision with an adult in their family, and when they don’t, it is usually for a reason,” Muniz said.

He said many of those minors who don’t tell someone keep quiet because they fear being abused or becoming homeless.

Even though the ACLU’s lawsuit challenging the state’s parental notification act was dismissed last month by the Illinois Supreme Court, Muniz said the group will continue to “work with anybody, anywhere, anytime” to help empower and protect young women.

Edward Yonka, director of communications and public policy for the ACLU of Illinois,  said the organization hopes to persuade the Illinois General Assembly to expand the definition of who can be notified.

But Linton of the Thomas More Society, said broadening the definition ignores the point of the law, and he doubts “such proposals will go anywhere.”

Illinois is the 39th state to implement an abortion parental involvement law, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. These laws, depending on the state, require that a minor’s parent or guardian be notified or must give their consent; and in some states both is required.

Before Aug. 15th, Illinois was considered the “go-to-place” for minors in bordering states to get an abortion.

In 2011 – the most recent year statistics are available – 3,139 abortions were performed in Illinois on out-of-state women of all ages, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health. That same year, there were 2,359 abortions performed on girls 17 and under who were either living in Illinois or came from out of state.

Both supporters and opponents expect the number of abortions performed on minors to drastically decrease now that the law has taken effect.

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