Screen capture from Planned Parenthood's abortion access map.

A little after 12 a.m. on October 28, HB 370 headed off to Gov. JB Pritzker’s desk to sign in hopes that the Parental Notification Act (PNA) will be repealed in Illinois. 

What is HB 370? Will Illinois youth make all their abortion-related decisions by themselves now? 

No. HB 370 is the Youth Health and Safety Act that repeals PNA, but it doesn’t leave Illinois youth without options. HB 370 will create a bipartisan group focused on pregnant and parenting youth and youth who may become pregnant. According to the ACLU,  it will identify existing and needed resources for youth, provide information related to accessing healthcare for minors and provide tools that support and encourage healthy communication between young people and their parents and other support systems.

Ten of the 24 working group members will even be young people themselves who directly speak toward the issue Illinois youth are facing. HB 370 will provide Illinois youth with a comprehensive guide to bodily autonomy and resources. Unlike PNA, HB 370 advocates for Illinois youth and gives them resources to make decisions about abortion with the trusted people in their life. 

What is PNA?

PNA went into effect in 2013 and like any law, to be constitutional it had to have a judicial bypass option, similar to a waiver. The law mandates that health care providers must notify an adult family member if anyone 17-years-old and younger wants to have an abortion. Almost every young person involves someone in their decision but they may not always fall under the category that PNA requires – a parent, grandparent, stepparent living in the home, or legal guardian. For some abortion seekers, it is the safest option not to tell because of being forced to carry to term and be cut off from abortion access.

40 percent of young people who week out the judicial bypass program say they did so because of a fear of being forced to continue their pregnancy and another 40 percent said their fear was being kicked out of their house and cut off financially. PNA and the judicial bypass program (while a good alternative) only delays abortion access and put Illinois youth at risk of missing their windows for care. Repeatedly, Illinois youth had to be vulnerable and go against all odds to even make their hearings, which always involve missing school, travel and shame. 82 percent of those who go through the judicial bypass process are people of color, which only further emphasizes the racial divides of PNA. 

Screen capture from Planned Parenthood’s abortion access map. Retrieved from: https://www.plannedparenthoodaction.org/abortion-access-tool/US

What are the current abortion restrictions in Illinois? 

Some people claim Illinois as a “safe haven” for abortion care, but that has not been the case as long as PNA is in effect. Illinois does not require 24 hour waiting periods, ultrasounds, biased counseling, or TRAP (targeted restrictions on abortion providers) laws. Compared to surrounding states, you can even get the abortion pill through telehealth appointments and mailed to your house, but PNA is still holding the state back. Besides Illinois, the closest most accessible states for abortion care is Montana, New York or New Mexico, a trip that is not possible for Midwest residents. Without PNA, Illinois can finally provide the asylum we have been waiting for. 

What happens now? 

Illinois is the closest it has ever been to repealing PNA, but there is one final step, Gov. Pritzker must sign HB 370 into law, which would then repeal PNA. In 2019, Gov Pritzker signed the Reproductive Health Act, which gives the fundamental rights of individuals to make their own decisions about their reproductive health, protected by law. Earlier this month Gov. Pritzker did say he was in favor of repealing PNA and that he has stood in favor of it since he was elected. Now, we wait for Gov. Pritzker to hold up his end of the deal.

Sam Stroozas

Sam Stroozas is the sexual health and reproductive justice fellow for Rebellious Magazine and a freelance journalist based in Chicago covering gender and social justice issues. Follow her on Twitter @samstroozas.