Abortion debate still unresolved

By Stephanie Saviola

The state of Illinois has filed a motion to dismiss a case pitting an anti-abortion group against the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois in a dispute over a parental notification law.

In November 2009, a Cook County Circuit Court judge placed a temporary restraining order on a law that requires minors to notify their parents before seeking an abortion. The restraining order came as a result of the lifting of an injuction on the original 1995 law.

Since that time, there have been short court skirmishes between the two parties in the case, The Illinois ACLU and the Thomas More Society of Chicago, a pro-life, nonprofit law firm.

“March 10 is really the next big landmark in this,” said Edwin Yohnka, communications director of the ACLU chapter. “If it goes through, the case will be dismissed.”

Peter Breen, executive director and legal counsel for the Thomas More Society, claims that they were denied leave to intervene after the state filed the motion to dismiss.

“One argument we raised was that the state was not arguing the strongest point to the case, which is the Illinois Constitution excluded abortion,” Breen said. “The attorney general was playing coy about

the argument.”

The Thomas More Society also claims that Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan argues the Illinois constitution filings contain the right to abortion.

“The ACLU and the attorney general are on the same side,” Breen said. “They both want the right to an abortion. The attorney general has kept us out of the case.”

Planned Parenthood of Illinois is preparing for changes in the event the law is enforced. On its Web site, the group has created a form for a minor to give her parents if she decides she will be having an abortion. The organization will also be notifying their patients if the law changes.

According to a press release, Planned Parenthood of Illinois said they are committed to doing everything they can to make this new process as easy as possible for teens if the law goes into effect.

“After a filing on Jan. 29, the attorney general is now claiming and essentially taking the ACLU’s side, claiming that the Illinois constitution says there is a right to abortion,” Breen said. “That is absolutely ludicrous.”

The Thomas More Society also claims that the ACLU’s argument is that the Illinois constitution protects abortion more than the federal constitution.

The ACLU, along with other pro-choice lawyers throughout Illinois, has created The Bypass Coordination Project to prepare themselves if the law is enforced. The project provides a free legal service for young women who are dealing with an unplanned pregnancy. It also educates young women on what they will need to do if the law is enforced.

The original law was never enforced. A judge initially granted a 90-day grace period in August after a Federal Appeals court lifted an injunction on the law.

The current law does not allow girls 17 and under to have an abortion without parental notification, but it will not be enforced until a final decision is made.

“We have continued to update people on the status of the litigation,” Yohnka said. “People who work with young adults and have interaction with them know the kind of harm that these kinds of laws can do.”

The motion to dismiss the case will come up in an oral argument scheduled on March 10. The ACLU was originally asking for a permanent injunction, but if the motion is passed dismissing the case, there will be no need for an injunction.

“We look at this situation from the beginning,” Breen said. “The attorney general had not played this straight. We do intend to go back to court to try and vigorously defend this law.”