Illinois Votes To Enforce Parental Notification Laws While Pro-Choice Nun Suspends Activism

Illustration for article titled Illinois Votes To Enforce Parental Notification Laws While Pro-Choice Nun Suspends Activism

Illinois's Medical Disciplinary Board has voted to start enforcing a law that requires doctors to give the parents or guardians of girls 17 or younger 48 hours' notice before providing them with abortions.


For a primer on why parental notification laws suck, check out this article at RH Reality Check. Some highlights:

While parental notification laws are intended to protect young women, they assume that all young women can safely involve their family in the decision to terminate a pregnancy. Ideally, young women would freely inform their parents or other trusted adults. And most do...

However, the government cannot mandate good family dynamics or strengthen a family's ability to engage in effective and positive communication. Interestingly enough, parental notification laws mandate family involvement only after a young woman already has become pregnant.

...[M]ore than half of young women who do not involve a parent in their decision to seek an abortion cite fear of abuse or eviction. The American Medical Association (AMA) reports that some young women will go to extreme and unhealthy lengths to keep pregnancies secret, including running away, obtaining illegal abortions, or self-inducing abortions.

The AMA and other medical organizations recommend against parental notification laws. Research in Texas, which has required parental notification since 2000, has shown that it increased the likelihood that a girl would undergo a second-term abortion, which carries greater health risks. So, to recap, the majority of pregnant girls voluntarily tell their parents before seeking abortion, and those who don't probably have a good reason for keeping quiet — like fearing abuse or being thrown out of the house. Girls will risk their lives with illegal abortions rather than risk telling their parents, which might suggest that they know something about their own family dynamics we don't. Major medical organizations think it's a bad idea. And so... Illinois is about to become the 35th state to go ahead with it. Of course.

If you haven't had your fill of depressing reproductive rights-related news from Illinois yet, take a gander at the story of Donna Quinn, a Dominican sister who's been volunteering as an escort at a Chicago-area clinic. Quinn, who's in favor of contraception and women's ordination as well as being pro-choice, has been caught in the Vatican's dragnet and is giving up her work as an advocate for women at the clinic. Although her order, the Sinsinawa Dominicans, have supported her in the past, the recent increased scrutiny of women religious in America seems to have led them to reprimand her and release a statement saying, "her actions are in violation of her profession" and expressing regret over the controversy. Nevertheless, Quinn maintains that stopping her work as an escort was her own decision, made in part to protect the patients. She told The Chicago Tribune:

As a peacekeeper, my goal is to enable women to enter a reproductive health clinic in dignity and without fear of being physically assaulted. ... I am very worried that the publicity around my presence will lead to violations of every woman's right to privacy and expose them to further violence.

Now, on the one hand, it's no secret that the Catholic Church is anti-choice and anti-contraception, so what did you expect? On the other hand, as someone who attended both a summer camp and a college run by the Sinsinawa Dominicans (and worked one summer at the former), I can tell you the scuttlebutt was always (at least in the '80s and '90s) that a lot of the old girls were only semi-secretly pro-choice. Some are openly in favor of gay rights and many are generally way more feminist than you'd expect. Quinn's been more vocal about her church-challenging views than most, but for a long time, the sisters have basically been left alone to do their thing, which includes community service and educating young people, primarily girls, with enough of a focus on both social justice and critical thinking that some of us inevitably grow up to be atheist, homo-loving, pro-choice feminist bloggers. And basically, that kind of thing is exactly why the Vatican is cracking down now, trying to force American women religious in line and out of public life. If people can see them out there in the community, doing actual good for actual human beings instead of just judging their sex lives — well, that gives entirely the wrong impression of the church's priorities!

If there's a silver lining in all this depressing news, I guess it's just that Donna Quinn exists. And she may be quitting her volunteer work, but she's not shutting up about the need for women to have unhindered access to reproductive health services. "I take this opportunity to urge those demonstrating against women who are patients at the Hinsdale Clinic, whom I have seen emotionally as well as physically threaten women, to cease those activities," she told the Tribune. "I would never have had to serve as a peacekeeper had not they created a war against women."


Vote clears way for Ill. abortion notification law [Chicago Tribune]
Parental Notification Law Will Only Harm Illinois' Young Women [RH Reality Check]
Nun decides to suspend activism for abortion rights after a rebuke by her order [Chicago Tribune]

Earlier: Vatican Attempts To Erase Images Of Modern Service To God



I'm sorry, but my very visceral reaction to the controversy about parental notification laws is, "No doctor better lay a finger on my kid unless I know about it." An abortion is a serious medical procedure. There could be complications. The kid could have underlying medical issues that they might not think to tell a doctor about, but that a parent surely would. A younger teenager could feel extremely emotional, even traumatized, by the procedure (I base this solely on the fact that I remember feeling pretty traumatized by a regular old GYN exam as a 14-year-old - I was an easily embarrassed kid).

I know there are horrible instances where notification could lead to violence or getting thrown out - but there ARE systems in place to help kids who are in abusive situations, whether abortion is an issue or not. My husband is a high school teacher and he has reported on suspected abuse and has had kids come to him for help - they've gotten Child and Family Services involved, or even the police when necessary. These are not perfect solutions, but they're the best we have right now.

I just have a really hard time with the fact that a 14-year-old can't go to an R-rated movie, can't drive, can't buy a pack of cigarettes - but can have a major medical procedure done without her parents knowing about it. If she can't get an appendectomy without my approval, she shouldn't be able to get an abortion. #illinoisparentalnotification