(CN) – The 7th Circuit on Tuesday upheld a latent Illinois law requiring doctors to notify the parents of teenage girls seeking abortions, calling it “a permissible attempt to help a young woman make an informed choice about whether to have an abortion.”
In a case spanning nearly 25 years, a group of physicians challenged the Illinois Parental Notice of Abortion Act. The law does not require parental consent; it only requires doctors to notify parents within 48 hours.
Doctors who violate the notice act can have their licenses suspended or revoked, and face fines of up to $5,000 per violation.
The Act originally passed in 1984, but was later repealed and replaced in 1995. The newer version allowed minors to notify a judge instead – anonymous, if desired – and sped up the appeals process. The judicial bypass provision applied to minors who could show that they were mature enough to make the decision on their own, or that parental notification was not in their best interests.
The parties agreed to a court order barring enforcement of the Act until the state Supreme Court outlined the structure for the judicial bypass provision. But the high court didn’t establish any roadmap until September 2006, allowing the law to remain dormant for 10 years.
When the court finally acted, state officials moved to dissolve the earlier injunction. The district court denied that motion on the basis that the Act lacked language allowing immature minors to consent to an abortion without parental notification.
“The 1995 Act authorizes the court to waive parental notification when it is in the ‘best interest’ of the child, but does not authorize a method of consent for the abortion,” U.S. District Judge David Coar explained. “Thus, under the statute, a ‘best interest’ minor who has waived parental notification is left without a legal mechanism to obtain consent for the abortion, and is thus in legal limbo.”
But the Chicago-based appeals court said this ruling “misses the mark.”
“The language and structure of the notice act do enable bypass courts to issue orders authorizing consent to an abortion without notice,” Judge Cudahy wrote (emphasis in original).
“What would be the point of providing for a waiver of notice if there were no way to enforce it?” Cudahy added. “The act clearly contemplates the court’s ability to follow through on this score.”
Lawyers for both sides said the law could take effect within weeks unless the court grants a stay.