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Illinois Supreme Court will hear arguments Thursday on constitutionality of parental notice abortion law

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SPRINGFIELD-A law requiring that parents be notified if their minor children are seeking abortions has been on Illinois books for 17 years but never implemented.

On Thursday, the state's highest court will begin deciding if that should change.

Both sides in the long-running dispute over Illinois' parental notification abortion law will make their cases before the state Supreme Court.

Abortion-rights groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois, are coming off a legal victory last summer, when a state appeals court reversed a Cook County judge's ruling to lift a restraining order on the 1995 law.

The appeals court ruling is being challenged Thursday by the state's pro-choice attorney general, Lisa Madigan.

"A long line of court decisions have held that parental notice statutes are constitutional," Madigan spokeswoman Natalie Bauer said.

"The attorney general is pro-choice. But as attorney general, she takes an oath to uphold the Constitution. And based on the clear court decisions upholding these statutes, the Illinois law is constitutional," Bauer said.

Abortion-rights advocates turned to the state courts after a federal appeals panel ruled in August 2009 that the Illinois law did not run afoul of the U.S. Constitution. But after that, a Cook County circuit judge refused to permit the lawsuit since the federal courts already had weighed in, prompting the ACLU appeal to the Illinois Appellate Court.

The June 2011 state appeals court ruling reversed the circuit court decision that lifted a restraining order barring implementation of the law, which was a GOP legislative centerpiece when Republicans last controlled both the Legislature and governor's office in the mid-1990s.

"As the circuit court noted earlier in this case, this law poses real harm to some young women facing an unplanned pregnancy," said Lorie Chaiten, director of the ACLU of Illinois Reproductive Rights Project who will present the oral argument on Thursday. "Forced parental notification will cause some young women to suffer physical and mental abuse, be kicked out of their home or forced to carry the pregnancy to term against their will."

Under the law, doctors would have to notify parents or legal guardians of girls 17 and younger at least two full days before performing an abortion on them. A judge could sidestep the requirement if a girl comes from an abusive home or has other extenuating circumstances in which a parent or guardian could not be notified.

In 2011, the most recent date for which the state has published abortion data, 2,359 girls 17 and younger obtained abortions in Illinois and would have been affected by the law had it been in effect, state records show.

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