Parental notification law in Illinois has troubling consequences for minors

The majority of states now require some kind of parental involvement in a minor’s decision to have an abortion. A new study by UCSF’s ANSIRH and Institute for Health Policy Studies examines the impacts of the parental notification law in Illinois and shows that increased parental involvement did not increase parental support or the minor’s certainty about her decision. In fact, researchers found negative outcomes for minors in the year following the law’s enactment.

The Illinois law requires that an adult family member be informed 48 hours in advance of the abortion or be present at the procedure. Researchers looked at anonymized data from a clinic in southern Illinois, one of the few that provides second trimester care. They compared the experience of minors who had an abortion before and after the law went into effect, and compared that to women aged 18-20 to ensure that the effects that surfaced were related to the law and not simply trends for young women overall.

After the law went into effect, the study showed:

  • A 29% decrease in minors obtaining abortions. The decrease could be related to minors declining to obtain abortion care because they did not want to involve an unsupportive parent. To circumvent parental notification requirements, minors would have to travel as far as New York or New Mexico.
  • An increase in parental awareness that minors were obtaining abortion care, but no change in the amount of parental support the minors felt they had.
  • Delays in accessing care for minors traveling from out of state. While second trimester abortion is a safe procedure, it is more expensive and fewer clinics offer this type of care.
  • Nearly one in ten minors’ preference for an alternative to parental notification such as judicial bypass, highlighting the importance of these options.
  • A slight decrease in minors’ certainty about their decision.

Illinois’ parental notification law is more permissive compared to other states that require parental consent. If even permissive laws cause delays in accessing care, these findings may be amplified in states with more stringent laws. The spread of such laws means travel to obtain care becomes increasingly difficult, and distant travel may be beyond the means of many minors. Research like this can help ensure that our policies protect the health and wellbeing of young people seeking abortion care.