Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Cook County judge takes an intriguing approach to criticizing abortion restriction

Republicans back in 1995 used their partisan dominance (the GOP once controlled everything, believe it or not) to ram a lot of bills based on socially conservative concepts through the General Assembly and then-Gov. Jim Edgar – one of which was a measure meant to require girls under 18 who get pregnant to inform a parent if they wish to abort the pregnancy.

It was meant to be a way of conservatives getting around the fact that the courts had rejected the idea that a parent could refuse to let their teenage daughters end a pregnancy. Because technically, the parents merely have to be told of the abortion decision 48 hours or more before it happens.

THEORETICALLY, THEY CAN’T stop it. The reality of the situation, however, is that most parents in that situation will use whatever means possible to thwart their daughters’ preferences. For all practical purposes, it amounts to parental consent.

Now many of those conservative bills wound up getting struck down by the state Supreme Court as unconstitutional. The heavy-handed tactics of the Legislature back in that 1995-96 era of GOP Dominance really were grotesque to watch. Democrats in recent years haven’t pulled anything anywhere near as bad – although that is largely because Democrats can’t play nice and agree with each other on much of anything.

This abortion-related law is different. It remains on the books, but has never been enforced.

For the American Civil Liberties Union has managed to file legal actions that have kept it from being enforced, even though a Cook County judge this week tossed the lawsuit out of court.

NOT THAT THIS means we’re on the verge of having this law enforced. Judge Daniel Riley is keeping in place a stay that prevents its enforcement – on the grounds that he knows his ruling on Monday is going to be the subject of more legal battles in the Illinois Appellate Court.

Riley wound up giving support to both sides of the abortion issue.

For while he said he thought the ACLU lawsuit was legally flawed and does not deserve to continue in the court system, he also thinks the law is flawed.

During a brief court hearing, Riley said the law (if ever enforced) has the potential to cause “more harm than good.”

THE CHICAGO SUN-Times reported that Riley said the law from the Republican era of dominance discriminates against pregnant teenage girls because it only requires parental notification in the event that she considers abortion.

Keeping the pregnancy to either raise on her own or give up for adoption would, theoretically, allow a girl to go through her entire nine-month term without ever telling her parents a thing.

Which may be an impractical concept. But it is no more ridiculous than the idea that a girl would be able to tell her parents about abortion, then proceed as though they would not try to pressure her to behave in a certain way.

Now I understand what motivates the anti-abortion crowd to push for such laws.

ON A CERTAIN level, they realize that the concept of a woman being able to end a pregnancy if she wishes has become the law and that any chance of changing that is going to take a political revolution that would let them stack the Supreme Court of the United States and all the lower courts with judges who would play blatant political games with “the law.”

But by pushing for restrictions on abortion under so many different circumstances, they can make it a medical procedure so difficult to obtain that it might as well not be legal at all.

The only people who get hurt under these circumstances are the women themselves, who are actual living beings carrying the potential for a life inside them. That is my bottom line when it comes to the abortion issue – I favor the life that actually exists over the potential for a new life.

Some people will argue that with a minor, she ought to face some additional restrictions and her parents ought to have some say over her decisions. EXCEPT that when it comes to many teenage pregnancies, the conditions the girls are in usually are far from ideal.

THERE ARE TIMES we’re not talking about the ideal family environment to begin with. I can see cases where a girl being forced to get her parents involved with a pregnancy decision could exacerbate her problems.

That is why I can see why there are times when a teenage girl needs to have legal ways to deal with this situation. It is why I can see that the conservative stance of wanting to restrict her access to a legal medical procedure is about as immoral as a person could get.

Not that I expect anybody is going to be swayed by anything I have written here. This is an issue where people’s stances are carved in marble. The Republicans etched their view for all of us to see when they used their political influence of the past to ram this piece of ideology down all of our throats.

It likely will be many more years before we learn which side of Riley’s ruling will prevail.


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