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Illinois Minors No Longer Have to Ask for Permission to Get an Abortion

Expanding how minors can access abortion is part of a bigger plan to make Illinois an abortion haven.

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After nine long years, minors are no longer required to go before a judge to request an abortion in Illinois. On Wednesday, the Parental Notice of Abortion Act (PNA) was officially repealed, allowing people under 18 to fully access reproductive healthcare on their own terms.

Since August 2013, young people in Illinois were required to either get permission from an adult in charge of them (anything from a legal guardian to a grandparent) or try to convince a judge that they are mature enough to have an abortion. The law was passed in 1995, but the ACLU was able to keep it out of effect until 2013.

“This is a fight the ACLU of Illinois has been involved in for almost 50 years. Almost as soon as Roe v. Wade decision was announced. For decades the ACLU of Illinois was able to go to court and get injunctions,” ACLU of Illinois staff attorney Emily Werth told Jezebel. That’s when “our legal strategies ran its course in 2013 despite our best efforts to prevent it,” Werth said.

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When the law went into effect, the legal organization started the Judicial Bypass Coordination Project. Its efforts to inform and represent minors seeking abortion ultimately helped file and grant more than 625 petitions to obtain judicial bypass waivers. Only one person’s petition was denied.

In December 2021, Illinois Gov. Pritzker (D) signed the Youth Health and Safety Act into law, which included a repeal of the PNA. Now, the ACLU of Illinois and other reproductive rights organizations are continuing to look ahead, especially as the summer will likely see the dismantling of Roe v. Wade.

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Illinois lawmakers and abortion advocates have worked together to make the state a haven in a post-Roe world. “I think it’s interesting that Illinois is thought of a bastion or haven, but that is the result of 50 years of really hard fought effort by ACLU of Illinois and our partners,” Werth told Jezebel.

Some of that work was undoing Illinois’s pioneering anti-abortion laws from the 70s and 80s like waiting periods and parental and spousal consent laws. “The ACLU was able to get those blunted or get consent degrees so they weren’t fully enacted, but we had a lot of really bad laws on the books. We’ve worked over the past decade or so to undo so that Illinois laws support abortion access,” Werth told Jezebel.

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Seeing the long struggle to get full reproductive rights to minors marks a long-awaited victory for the ACLU of Illinois and other reproductive rights organizations. It’s added to the state’s removal of a trigger law that would’ve outlawed abortion if Roe was overturned, expanded state Medicaid coverage to include abortion, require most private insurance providers to cover abortion, and enshrine abortion access. “We’re working toward the potential overturning of Roe,” she said.

Before Wednesday, abortion was the only medical service during pregnancy that was singled out for minors. They could choose to carry a pregnancy to term without parental permission or choose to give a child up for adoption. Now, with the expiration of the law, abortion is put on the same level as other parts of reproductive healthcare—and keeps young people out of unnecessary and possibly traumatic judicial processes.

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This law will give minors, especially those at risk due to abuse, neglect, or estrangement, power back over their lives. Advocates for Youth found that most teens seeking abortion care choose to involve their parents anyway. Those who choose to involve an adult still can. “Nothing about that changes between yesterday and today,” Werth told Jezebel. “What does is those young people who aren’t going to be put in the untenable choice of involving an adult or going through this potentially traumatic court case.”