Sen. Elgie R. Sims, Jr.

SPRINGFIELD – In an effort to protect young women’s reproductive rights and choices, State Senator Elgie R. Sims, Jr. (D-Chicago) advanced the Youth Health and Safety Act.

“We know that most young people alert or involve a parent or older family member in their decision making when something as serious as a pregnancy happens,” Sims said. “In fact, research shows us that the younger someone is, the more likely they are to discuss it with a family member and when they don’t, they have a good reason.”

Under current law, young women, some in troubled family circumstances, must notify an adult family member at least 48 hours before having an abortion. However, Sims and other supporters of the legislation point out that not all family systems are created equal and that youth who come from these circumstances are placed in harm’s way by forcing them into unhealthy conversations.

“It’s important to acknowledge that current law causes harm by placing barriers to care for young women in unsafe family situations,” said Sims. “This bill builds on the approach this state has taken to reproductive health care over the past few years– placing the power to make individual, personal decisions about reproductive health care in the hands of residents and their health care providers.”

As of right now, minors who are unable to notify their parents or guardians must petition the Illinois courts for a waiver of the notice requirement, another significant barrier for the youth seeking to exercise this right.

“No one should be forced into court to seek health care,” Sims said. “None of us would want to go and ask a judge, a complete stranger, for permission to access the health care that we require.”

The legislation would also create a bipartisan working group focused on pregnant and parenting youth. The goal of the working group is to provide information and resources related to access to health care for minors, including counseling services, mental health treatment and parenting guidance and to identify resources and tools that support and encourage healthy communication between young people and their parents and other support systems.

House Bill 370 passed with a vote of 32-22 and now moves to the House of Representatives for further consideration.