Published on December 21, 2021
This piece appeared as a guest column on John Kass’s political blog.
On the Friday afternoon before Christmas–as families prepared for the holiday–Gov. J.B. Pritzker gave Illinois parents a terrible present. It was not wrapped, but he put his name on it:.
Pritzker signed the bill repealing the Illinois Parental Notification of Abortion Act, a commonsense law requiring abortion providers to notify parents or guardian that an abortion would be performed on minor girls.
It was active since 2013, intended in part to thwart the human sexual trafficing of young girls, many who were pulled into the sex trade and had lost contact with their parents.
And Pritzker killed it for Christmas with the help of his Democratic House and State Senate majorities.
The law that Pritzker killed had nothing to do with parental consent. All it did was mandate that parents or guardians be notified–by the abortion provider–-before an abortion would be performed.
Dr. Brook Bello, an advocate for victims of sex trafficking–and who was herself raped as a child and trafficked as a teenager and lost contact with her parents during that gruesome experience–had something to say. :
“I can only imagine what my father or mother would have done if they at least received notification that I was having an abortion at 15 that they did not know about. They assumed I ran away and stayed away on my own free will. It only makes the work we do to lessen and prevent human trafficking that much harder,” Dr Bello said.
There is a remarkable degree of consensus about parental notice of abortion. A Tarrance Group poll of Illinois residents found that 72% of Illinois voters wanted to see the law remain in place — that statistic includes 55% of respondents to the same poll who identified as “pro-choice or strongly pro-choice.”
Governor Pritzker’s statement on his signing the repeal was deliberately misleading, implying that the law required a minor girl who was a victim of abuse or neglect to notify a parent or guardian. It did not.
The law placed that responsibility squarely, and solely, on the abortion provider or clinic. It was the abortion clinic’s and abortionist’s burden to notify, not the minor child’s. Pritzker’s raising the specter of a young girl trembling before an abusive parent as she informed them about her impending abortion is a legal fiction, meant to give cover to his complete disregard for parents. That too, was gaslighting. The law that Pritzker killed with his pen also contained a blanket waiver for any minor attesting that she was a victim of abuse, as well as a judicial bypass for non-abuse victims who felt they could not tell their parents they wanted to abort.
When it comes to abortion, Illinois is already considered a national outlier – the procedure was declared a “fundamental right” and completely sheltered by the 2019 Illinois “Reproductive Health” Act. Illinois is already something of a Midwest abortion tourist destination, thanks in part to taxpayer-funded abortions for all Medicaid patients and State of Illinois employees – a limitless “benefit” transferable to women and girls who travel here from out of state under the “presumed eligibility” feature of Illinois Medicaid.
In the first six months Illinois taxpayers footed the bill for all abortions undergone by Medicaid recipients or Illinois State employees, the tax-payer funded abortion rate rose 1758%. And now, thanks to Pritzker’s signature, teenage girls from neighboring states will now be able to travel across state lines to obtain abortions that their parents will never know about – and that Illinois taxpayers will likely largely subsidize.
Illinois’s clinics are also known for their willingness to do later abortions, with clinics openly advertising elective (i.e., healthy mom, healthy baby) abortions at six months’ (24 weeks) gestation.
With Pritzker’s signature repealing the Parental Notification of Abortion Act, Illinois sadly distinguishes itself (yet again) by becoming the ONLY state in the nation to completely rescind a law requiring some sort of parental involvement in a minor’s abortion decision.
When Illinois State Representative Anna Moeller and State Senator Elgie Sims introduced the bill to eliminate the parental notice law last Spring, it was presented in the General Assembly as a straight-up of the repeal of the Parental Notification of Abortion Act. But it was never called to the House floor, as its unpopularity was evident immediately — and Democrats knew they didn’t have the votes – or the public support – to pass it.
Rather than loudly tell Illinois parents what they were doing, the Democrats in the General Assembly decided to use a legislative trick.
During the fall veto session Democrats gutted a probate bill, adding a sentence near the end noting that a vote for the amended “probate” bill would also undo the State’s Parental Notice requirement. Clearly, they weren’t proud of what they were doing, so they continued with their tricks in the shadows.
Consequently, the title of the bill did not square with the bill’s intent. Moreover, it was introduced in the House Executive Committee with only two hours’ notice to opponents. Not only did that leave almost no time to secure rebuttal witnesses, but it made it virtually impossible for the public to have any input.
When the law goes into effect, abortion clinics across Illinois will be able to perform abortions, including surgical abortions, on minor girls, at any time in pregnancy, for any reason, without telling parents.
In the last four years, Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion provider, has built three new “mega-clinics,” each one strategically located within a short distance of the Illinois borders with Indiana, Missouri, and Wisconsin. Every one of these neighboring states have sensible, voter-supported parental involvement laws.
Anyone who has a teenager knows that teens can, and often do, act erratically. Experts in human brain development who spoke at a press conference in support of Parental Notice explained that the part of the brain responsible for the contemplation and full understanding of the consequences for behavior is not fully developed until age 25.This is why sentencing guidelines for juveniles who commit criminal acts have been reconsidered in so many countries that understand the need to treat children as, well, children. Teenagers are less likely to think through decisions and are far more likely to act on impulse or succumb to peer pressure.
And if that’s not terrifying enough, experts have warned that eliminating parental notice offers an inducement for sex traffickers to bring underage girls to Illinois in order to evade parental involvement laws in their own states. They hunt children whose parents are not involved in their lives.
Representative Chris Bos (R-Lake Zurich) is one of those experts. Prior to his time in politics, he worked as an advocate for underage victims of sex trafficking. He gave a moving speech, as noted in part below, on the House floor just prior to the vote in the Illinois General Assembly,
“I rise today not just as a concerned father, but as an advocate who spent years fighting the epidemic of sex trafficking,” Bos said.
“If you’re not aware, the average age of entry for a victim of sex trafficking in the US is between 12-14 years, but for many, that abuse started well before they became victims of trafficking. After drug dealing, human trafficking is the fastest growing criminal enterprise in the world. I guarantee you that this is happening and impacts every single community that is represented here on this floor today.
“[The repeal of the Parental Notification of Abortion Act] – if it were to pass – would further advance that criminal enterprise by emboldening the pimps, the traffickers, those who rape and sexually assault and exploit these children. Because of parental notification there are girls here in this State whose loved ones have been able to locate them, rescue them from their traffickers, and bring them home so they can find hope and healing.
“This is not hyperbole. This is fact.
“It is our responsibility as legislators to pass laws that protect our most vulnerable children and not put them at greater risk. If [repeal of Parental Notice] passes, you will be allowing those who victimize and abuse children – not just here in Illinois – but from all over the US, to walk their victims into a clinic, force them to have an abortion, hide the evidence of their crime, and continue the cycle of violence.
Do not further empower those pimps, those traffickers, those who rape and sexually abuse and exploit these children for their own personal and selfish gain.
Vote NO,” said Rep. Bos.
Yet, despite Bos’s impassioned, well-informed plea – along with a previous plea sent to every member of the Illinois General Assembly from Dr. Bello– Pritzker and the Democrats ended parental notification.
Only Democrats voted for the bill — the Democratic Party provided all the votes needed in both the House and the Senate– to repeal Parental Notice. And on Friday afternoon, Governor Pritzker signed it.
Former Lake County Sheriff Mark Curran said, “In the twelve years that I served as the Sheriff of Lake County, bordering Wisconsin, it was always a priority of my office to be vigilant about monitoring for the sex trafficking of minors across state lines. The Illinois Parental Notification of Abortion Law was a valued safeguard for law enforcement, providing us with an additional layer of protection for young girls. It is outrageous that Pritzker would sign a bill removing that safeguard, effectively putting out a “welcome mat” for those who criminally abuse children. Pritzker has made the jobs of law enforcement officials that much more difficult – particularly for those areas that serve counties and towns bordering our neighboring states.”
Several months ago, the people of Virginia remembered when they were told their role in their children’s lives didn’t matter – that they needed to get out of the way of the almighty state. That the government’s role in raising their child was more important than that of their parents. They sent their governor packing, and elected a new governor who promised to respect the rights of parents to make decisions for their children.
On Friday, Governor Pritzker chose abortion providers over parents. He chose sex traffickers over vulnerable girls. And he did so, not openly, but in the political shadows with a legislative trick.
When the Illinois Democrats face reelection next year, Illinois voters need to remember, too.
Mary Hallan FioRito is an attorney and the Cardinal Francis George Fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center and the deNicola Center for Ethics and Culture at the University of Notre Dame. Raised in the Austin neighborhood on Chicago’s West Side, she and her husband are the parents of three daughters.