Texas near total abortion ban opens door to Illinois parental notice repeal, bolstering abortion rights

Texas near total abortion ban opens door to Illinois parental notice repeal, bolstering abortion rights

Opponents of Texas’ new law banning most abortions demonstrated at the “Bans Off My Body” rally at Federal Plaza in the Loop, Friday afternoon, Sept. 10, 2021. The rally was organized by several local organizations, including Illinois Handmaids and Planned Parenthood Illinois Action. | Pat Nabong/Sun-Times file photo

“We’re looking at that, as well as what we might do in direct response to the law in Texas,” Senate President Don Harmon said during the Sun-Times’ “At the Virtual Table” show.

WASHINGTON — The near total abortion ban in Texas is opening the door to repealing the Illinois Parental Notice of Abortion Act and installing more abortion rights safeguards when the legislature returns to Springfield in October.

“We’re looking at that, as well as what we might do in direct response to the law in Texas,” Senate President Don Harmon, D-Oak Park, said Thursday during the Sun-Times’ “At the Virtual Table” show.

Without the GOP-authored Texas abortion law setting off alarm bells, there likely would not be much stomach in the Illinois General Assembly to take up anything at this time related to the always contentious issue of abortion.

The Texas law outlaws most abortions after about six weeks and, remarkably, allows anyone who wants to collect a $10,000 bounty to enforce it.

Illinois, with all major statewide offices held by Democrats supporting abortion rights — and with the state House and Senate controlled by Democrats — is a national leader in preserving abortion rights.

But more can be done, especially in the wake of Texas and copycat GOP state legislatures and a likely majority on the Supreme Court open to eroding the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling guaranteeing abortion as a constitutional right.

As co-host of the “At the Virtual Table” show, with Sun-Times columnist Laura Washington, I asked Harmon about the Illinois notification law given what happened in Texas.

The 2013 Illinois parental notice law requires a health care provider to notify an adult family member if a woman under the age of 18 seeks an abortion. This is a harder issue for abortion rights backers who want to also give parents their due.

Parental notice is needed, the Illinois law states, to “protect the best interests” of “immature minors” who “often lack the ability to make fully informed choices that consider both the immediate and long-range consequences.”

Harmon, asked about repealing the parental notice law during the upcoming October session said, “I think many of us are horrified by what happened in Texas, and even more horrified by what didn’t happen in Washington, D.C., with the Supreme Court declining to intervene” to postpone the effective date of the law while court challenges are pending.

“I think that’s given many people pause and wondering if the next action the Supreme Court takes would be overturning Roe against Wade.

“In Illinois, over the last 15 years, we have taken affirmative steps to make sure that no matter what happens in the Supreme Court, a woman’s right to a comprehensive suite of reproductive health care services is available here in Illinois. I expect that we will turn to dealing with the last vestiges of that anti-choice of laws in Illinois as well as figuring out how best to respond to Texas. I was visiting with constituents this week who were telling me that local doctors are in fact getting patients coming from Texas now because of what happened there.”

Harmon added, “We have a strongly pro-choice chamber. I think we’re looking at that, as well as what we might do in direct response to the law in Texas.”

State Rep. Kelly Cassidy, D-Chicago, a guest on a separate segment of the show, noted “Frankly, there’s very little difference between permission and notice.”

Gov. J.B. Pritzker, a Democrat, condemned the Texas law.

Strongly backing abortion rights, in 2019 Pritzker signed the Reproductive Health Act, cementing into Illinois law abortion as “a fundamental right.”

According to a March report by Human Rights Watch and the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois urging repeal of the parental notification law, each year in the state about 1,000 Illinois residents under 18 have abortions.

CONGRESS: ILLINOIS DELEGATION SPLITS IN ABORTION VOTE

In reaction to Texas and the potential of other GOP-led states to curb abortion, the U.S. House, controlled by Democrats, on Friday passed the Women’s Health Protection Act on a party line 218-211 roll call. The measure protects a woman’s right to abortion. It likely will stall in the Senate, since there are not 60 votes to pass it.

All five Illinois GOP members in Congress voted against it: Mary Miller, Adam Kinzinger, Rodney Davis, Michael Bost and Darin LaHood. All 13 Illinois House Democrats voted yes.

Said U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., in a floor speech, “I want to be very clear. Roe v. Wade was not the beginning of women having abortions, it was the end of women dying from abortions.”

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