Member Groups

The Catalyst
The newsletter of the ISBA’s Standing Committee on Women and the Law

April 2015, vol. 20, no. 6

The ACLU’s Illinois Judicial Bypass Coordination Project

When a young woman under the age of 18 in Illinois finds herself pregnant, she can turn to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) for help. The ACLU’s Judicial Bypass Coordination Project provides minors with information about the state’s parental notice law for those seeking abortions and assistance in obtaining what is called a “judicial bypass.”

The ACLU Web site describes in detail what a pregnant female under the age of 18 needs to know about abortion in Illinois. It gives an overview of the Illinois Parental Notice of Abortion Law, explaining that one who is under 18 must notify an adult family member before she can have an abortion. Notification simply means informing the adult family member and it may be made in person, by telephone, or by certified mail. An adult family member is a person over the age of 21 who is the minor’s parent, grandparent, step-parent who lives with the minor, or the minor’s legal guardian.

It clarifies that notification is not consent, pointing out that the minor’s physician must notify the adult family member of the minor’s choice, not seek the adult’s permission. The adult family member does not have the right to tell the minor that she cannot have the abortion. The exceptions to the notification requirement are: medical emergency; the adult family member’s written waiver of notification; the minor is a victim of abuse; she is married, divorced, or emancipated; or by order of the Court after a successful judicial bypass hearing.

A judicial bypass occurs when a judge enters an order allowing the minor to obtain an abortion without notification to an adult family member. The minor must meet certain criteria in order to have an abortion, absent adult family member notification. The minor must prove to the judge that she is either sufficiently mature and well enough informed to make an intelligent decision to abort or that notification would not be in the minor’s best interest. The judicial bypass hearing is confidential and the minor has the right to free legal counsel. Examples are given of what makes a minor mature and informed and of situations in which notice would not be in the minor’s best interest.

The Illinois Parental Notice of Abortion Law states that the minor is to be appointed a guardian ad litem for the procedure. If the minor is satisfied with her attorney, she may ask the Court to appoint her attorney as guardian ad litem.

In preparation for the judicial bypass, the website recommends that the minor become informed regarding possible alternatives to abortion (parenting and adoption) and presents a thoughtful approach to those options, citing in particular a warning against certain crisis pregnancy centers that falsely purport themselves to be “all options” clinics. It advises the minor to complete the 55-question “Lawyer Meeting Questionnaire” prior to meeting with her attorney, and also discusses abortion costs and payment options.

The judicial bypass hearing process is swift and a decision speedy. Once a petition is filed, a judge must render a decision within 48 hours. Under certain circumstances, the judge may make the decision immediately following hearing. Should a decision take longer than 48 hours from the time of filing, the judicial bypass is considered automatically granted.

This program is so very important and provides valuable services and great support to those young women in need. If you would like to be a volunteer attorney for the ACLU’s Illinois Judicial Bypass Coordination Project, please call 877.44.BYPASS or 312.560.6607.

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Mary F. Petruchius is a solo general practitioner in Sycamore, IL. She is the immediate past Chair of the ISBA Standing Committee on Women & the Law. Mary is also a member of the ISBA Diversity Leadership Council and Child Law Section Council, and is a board member of the Illinois Bar Foundation. Mary may be reached at marypet@petruchiuslaw.com and her website is www.petruchiuslaw.com.