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Illinois Teens: Can't Win for Losing

Alexa Kolbi-Molinas,
Deputy Director, ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project
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April 1, 2010

On Monday, a Cook County Circuit Court judge dismissed the ACLU’s challenge to the Illinois Parental Notice of Abortion Act; a law that prevents teens from having an abortion unless they notify a parent or go to court. We are obviously tremendously disappointed in the decision. For what it’s worth, the judge didn’t seem too happy about it either.

Calling the law a “clear infringement” of a young woman’s constitutional rights, the judge agreed with us that the law would subject many teenagers, particularly those who come from dysfunctional families, to physical and emotional abuse. In fact, the judge found the testimony we submitted — from experts around the country — that the law would jeopardize the health and safety of the most vulnerable teens to be “compelling.” Unfortunately, the judge also believed that he had to rule against us on technical grounds — because we could not prove that every single teenager that will ever seek an abortion in the state of Illinois will suffer these horrible consequences.

Of course we can’t. When faced with a pregnancy, most teens do talk to a parent. But we did not bring this lawsuit on behalf of those teens. Not all homes are safe homes. Not all parents are good parents; some are abusive or violent and would threaten their daughter’s health and safety if she told them she was pregnant. And we disagree with the judge that the Illinois Constitution does not protect the health and safety of these teens.

We are reviewing all of our options, including an appeal. For the moment, however, what is most important is that, despite the decision, this dangerous law will not go into effect immediately. If our daughters can’t come to us for whatever reason, the most important thing is that they are safe and get the care that they need, and, for now, they still can.

— Alexa Kolbi-Molinas, Staff Attorney, ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project, and Colleen Connell, Executive Director, ACLU of Illinois

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