Access to Abortion and EC for Teens in Illinois

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Obtaining proper reproductive healthcare and education
about sexuality and sexual health is essential to
keeping teens in our area healthy. In Illinois, teens are
lucky to have some access to contraceptives, abortion
services and other reproductive care. However, activist
groups continue placing roadblocks preventing teens
and others from accessing the care they need.
For more than 12 years, Illinois lawmakers have been
unable to enforce a dangerous mandatory parental notification
law. The Parental Notification of Abortion Act was first
enjoined in 1995 and required a parent to be notified 48
hours prior to a minor child’s abortion procedure. Rules
were never written to enforce this law and minors can currently
access abortion services without parental consent.
In January, State Attorney General Lisa Madigan asked a
federal judge to lift an injunction on this law after pressure
this fall from the Thomas More Society, Concerned
Women for America and other anti-choice groups. The
judge denied the request, saying the court system was
unable to handle the judicial bypass provision included in
the law and the injunction would remain in place until
courts were prepared to handle this process. The bypass
would allow the parental notification requirement to be
waived if a young woman appeared before a judge who
deemed her competent to make the decision or if she testified
in writing that she was a victim of incest.
In the interest of protecting the safety of teens, Rep.
John Fritchey (D) proposed a bill this January to expand
those able to be notified under the act. Fritchey’s Adolescent
Healthcare Safety Act (HB 317) currently has 19 cosigners
and would allow members of the clergy or another
adult family member to be notified instead of a parent.
The bill also requires counseling on all options for
unplanned pregnancies- parenting, adoption and abortion.
Fritchey proposed the bill to protect young women
whose health and safety would be jeopardized if a parent
were notified prior to an abortion procedure, such as victims
of incest or abuse.
Karla Peterson, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood
of East Central Illinois, shares Fritchey’s concerns.
“We encourage all of our patients to communicate with
their families about important healthcare decisions. However,
this may not be a reality for all teens, particularly
those from abusive homes or those who may face homelessness
and other difficult or dangerous situations as the
result of an unplanned pregnancy. If teens can’t or won’t
turn to a parent, we still need to ensure that they get safe
medical attention and high-quality counseling,” she said.
This concern for teen safety is echoed by numerous
medical organizations that also oppose mandatory
parental notification laws including the American Academy
of Pediatrics, the American Medical Association, the
Society for Adolescent Medicine, the American College of
Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Public
Health Association.
Access to abortion services in Illinois for all women,
including teens, is already limited without notification
laws or other restrictions. A recent report from NARAL
Pro-Choice America, a national advocacy organization that
works to protect reproductive rights, ranked Illinois 20th
in the nation and gave the state a C+ grade for access to
abortion services. Ninety percent of Illinois counties have
no abortion provider.
Wider access to birth control options and comprehensive
sexuality education would reduce the need for abortion
services for women of any age. Recent data has shown
a decline in teen birth rates but not pregnancy rates. The
United States teen birth rate is still 4-9 times higher than
any other developed country.
Teens can currently receive and have prescriptions
filled for birth control without parental consent. However,
those who are 17 and younger do not have over-thecounter
access to Plan B emergency contraception, or the
“Morning After” pill. Instead, these teens must obtain a
prescription for Plan B from a clinician. The product is
available over-the-counter to those over 18 with a government
issued photo ID. Plan B, manufactured by Barr Pharmaceuticals,
works to prevent pregnancy if taken within
120 hours of unprotected sex or contraceptive failure. The
earlier it is taken the more effective it is, up to 95%.
Plan B is not an abortifacient and is a different drug
than the “abortion pill,” Mifeprex. Plan B is simply a higher
dose of the same hormones contained in ordinary birth
control pills and has no effect if a woman is already pregnant.
Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich was a strong supporter
of over-the-counter access to Plan B. The drug was
approved for over-the-counter sale in late 2006 and
became available at pharmacies and Planned Parenthood
health centers for over-the-counter sales earlier this year.
Pharmacists nationwide have placed further roadblocks
to contraceptive access for teens and women of all ages.
Some pharmacists with moral objections to contraceptives
have refused to fill prescriptions for contraceptives or dispense
emergency contraception to their clients.
Gov. Blagojevich passed a ruling in 2005 requiring all
pharmacies to fill prescriptions for contraceptives, if they
carry them, without delay. After further complaints, the
Governor enacted a new rule last March requiring pharmacies
to post signs listing information about a customers
right to have their prescription for birth control or emergency
contraception filled and what they can do if their
prescription is wrongfully refused. During a visit in
November 2006, the first lady, Patricia Blagojevich commended
pharmacies in Champaign after an independent
study found that 100 percent of pharmacies in the Champaign-
Urbana area complied with these rules.

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