Seeking Bypass: What Will Ultimately End Confidence in the Necessity of Parental Involvement Laws?

On July 14, 2009, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals issued a ruling in Zbaraz v. Madigan, lifting the injunction of the 1995 Illinois Parental Notice of Abortion Act. Public discourse about parental involvement laws for minors seeking abortions has been quiet in recent years. Many believe that such statutes are common place and the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that set out the requirements for such laws to be constitutional, Bellotti v. Baird, is settled law, just like Roe v. Wade. Although routinely afforded the same reproductive health care and rights as adult pregnant women who carry to term, pregnant minors are assumed to need different treatment under the law when it comes to access to abortion. Proponents claim that minors need to be protected from any possible harm that might come from the abortion decision through mandated consultation with their parents. Opponents argue that such laws actually harm minors who have adverse relationships with their parents or legal guardians and should not be denied the right to choose when to parent or add to their existing families. While the Obama administration has been holding meetings to seek “common ground” on abortion, I have been wondering who was at “the table” and how the agenda was being shaped. Does this notion of common ground include the pregnancy rights of minors? Will this White House take the opportunity to review available literature that explores whether the compromise between parental authority and minor’s reproductive autonomy in the form of abortion parental involvement laws has been working as intended? Youth advocates in Illinois are now worried about the law’s affect on pregnant minors in their state. Does the political leadership in Washington, D.C. understand why?


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