Illinois Supreme Court Requested to Order Officials to Enforce Parental Notification Law Immediately
CHICAGO, September 1, 2009 (LifeSiteNews.com) - The Thomas More Society, a public interest law firm based in Chicago, has asked the Illinois Supreme Court to issue a court order mandating the immediate enforcement of the state's Parental Notice of Abortion Act of 1995, a law just recently freed from legal limbo, which Illinois public officials have attempted to delay implementing even further.
The Thomas More Society has requested the court to issue a "writ of mandamus," which would order the members of the Illinois State Medical Disciplinary Board, the Acting Secretary of the Illinois Department of Financial & Professional Regulation, and the Director of the Division of Professional Regulation to carry out the Parental Notice Act without any further delays. The court directive would also order the state officials to expunge and reverse their order handed down earlier this month that suspended enforcement of the Parental Notice Act for ninety days.
The Society alleges that these administrative officials acted without legal authority and in defiance of legally required procedures by announcing that they would wait three months before enforcing the law.
The 1995 Act requires a physician to notify one of the parents of a minor girl - this includes a legal guardian, step-parent, or grandparent living in the same household - before he performs an abortion upon a minor, unless the minor successfully petitions the circuit court for a waiver of the notice requirement. Under Illinois law, the court may grant a waiver if the minor can establish through a "bypass hearing," that she is mature enough to make a decision to obtain an abortion without notifying her parents, or that notifying her parents would not be in her best interests.
Although the parental notification law was enacted back in 1995, it languished in endless legal litigation for over a decade until September 20, 2006, when the Illinois Supreme Court adopted a rule that provided for minors to have expedited and confidential "bypass hearing" appeals. Once the new rule was adopted, the United States Court of Appeals unanimously upheld the constitutionality of the Act on July 14, 2009, and affirmed the Illinois Supreme Court's decision to implement the rule. A few weeks later, when the Court of Appeals issued its mandate, the Parental Notice Act became fully effective and enforceable.
However, the members of the Illinois State Medical Disciplinary Board, which has responsibility for enforcing the Parental Notice Act against physicians who willfully violate it, issued a recommendation on August 4 that the Illinois Department of Financial & Professional Regulation suspend enforcement of the law for ninety days, beginning on August 5, 2009.
The Board defended this action on the grounds that physicians needed more time to comply with the law. The very next day, this recommendation was adopted by the Acting Secretary of the Department and the Director of the Division of Professional Regulation.
However Tom Brejcha, President & Chief Counsel of the Thomas More Society, contested that argument insisting that "further delay is a clear usurpation of power and an affront to the People of Illinois."
"The performance of an abortion upon a minor in Illinois without first notifying one of her parents is illegal," said Tom Brejcha, President & Chief Counsel of the Thomas More Society. "Physicians who perform abortions in Illinois have had fourteen years to 'get ready' and 'gear up' to implement the law, more than enough time to comply with the law."
The Thomas More Society's complaint for writ of mandamus was brought on behalf of ten Illinois citizens; several also count themselves as parents of minor daughters who would want to be notified if in the event of any of their daughters having an abortion.
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