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Understanding the Illinois Parental Notice of Abortion Act

With some exceptions, new law requires physicians to give 48-hour notice By Allie Carter

Illinois’ Parental Notice of Abortion Act went into effect on Aug. 15. Under the Act, health care providers are required to notify an adult family member (defined as a parent, grandparent, stepparent who lives with the minor or legal guardian) 48 hours before performing an abortion for a patient who is under age 18. The law has important implications for a health care provider's ability to care for patients under 18 who are considering an abortion. While most young women involve a trusted adult in their decisions about unintended pregnancies, those who don’t usually have very good reasons—fear of abuse, being thrown out of their home or being forced to carry a pregnancy to term against their will. Providing care appropriately and sensitively to young women considering their options requires an understanding of this new law.

The law requires notice, not consent, which is an important distinction. An adult family member must be informed of the minor’s decision to have an abortion, but the adult cannot refuse permission or legally prevent the minor from effectuating her decision to have an abortion. Of the adult family members who qualify for notification, only the stepparent is required to actually live with the minor, and the provider is required only to notify one adult family member.

The law requires “actual notice.” The abortion provider must notify an adult family member in person or by phone of the young woman’s intention to terminate her pregnancy 48 hours before initiating the procedure. If after reasonable efforts, the provider is unable to give actual notice, the provider may send a certified letter, which is deemed delivered after 48 hours. The provider then must wait an additional 48 hours before performing the abortion.

If a physician other than the abortion provider has already given notice, the abortion provider need not do so again but must still wait 48 hours after such notice before performing the abortion. A letter for referring physicians certifying that notice has been given is available on the Illinois Judicial Bypass Coordination Project’s website.

There are a number of important exceptions to the notice requirement. First, if a minor is accompanied by a qualifying adult family member, the notice requirement (and 48-hour delay) is waived. If an adult family member waives notice in writing, the provider may proceed without notification or delay. A sample waiver letter is available on the Illinois Judicial Bypass Coordination Project’s website. It is a Class C misdemeanor for someone who is not an adult family member as defined in the Act to sign a written waiver of notice.

If the minor provides a written statement that indicates she is the victim of physical or sexual abuse or neglect by an adult family member, notice is not required. The health care provider must meet all mandated reporting requirements but may wait until after the abortion to do so. Notice and delay are also not required if the minor is married, divorced or widowed, if the minor has been legally emancipated, or if the provider determines that there is a medical emergency as defined in the Act.

Finally, notice is not required if a minor obtains a judicial waiver of the notice requirement. A judicial waiver process permits young women to go to court to demonstrate that they are mature and well enough informed to make a decision to terminate their pregnancy without forced involvement of an adult family member or that it is not in their best interest to notify an adult family member.

Physicians who in good faith give notice in accordance with the Act’s requirements, or rely on one of the Act’s exceptions to notice, are protected by a statutory immunity provision. If they fail to comply with the Act, physicians are subject to professional discipline.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Illinois has created a hotline to provide information about the Illinois parental notice of abortion law and to connect young women with free, trained attorneys who can help them obtain a judicial waiver if they need one. Young women may call 877-442-9727, text 312-560-6607, email or visit our website at

The ACLU of Illinois has model forms and resources for health care providers, youth-focused materials for organizations serving youth, and general educational materials about the parental notice law. The ACLU has provided numerous training sessions about the law for health care providers and can arrange additional training for interested groups. Please contact Emilie Junge for more information about training and materials at or by calling 312-201-9740.

This law creates difficult barriers for young women facing unintended pregnancies and for health care providers who work with them. The ACLU will continue to work to ensure these young women are able to make and effectuate their decisions about their reproductive health care.

Allie Carter is the advocacy and outreach director for the ACLU of Illinois (

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