State Rep. Mike Zalewski (D-Riverside), whose vote against repealing the Parental Notification of Abortion Act — which requires abortion providers to notify a parent or adult family member at least 48 hours in advance of performing the procedure on a patient under the age of 18 – risked alienating many Democratic voters, said afterward that his decision did not lessen his support for protecting a woman’s right to choose.
Zalewski was one of six Democrats in the Illinois House of Representatives to vote against repealing the Parental Notification of Abortion Act. Late on Oct. 27, the House voted 62-51 to approve the repeal. Three other House Democrats voted present.
“I respect those who disagree with me, and not every circumstance is the same, and [I] honor the intent of the proponents to protect the health and safety of young women,” Zalewski said. “I will continue to work to protect and promote women’s rights at the Illinois Capitol.”
Zalewski represents the 23rd District, which includes Riverside north of Herrick Road, the Hollywood section of Brookfield north of Washington Avenue and portions of south and central Brookfield.
Earlier, the state Senate voted 32-22 to repeal the Parental Notification Act. Five Democratic state senators including State Sen. Steve Landek (D-Bridgeview), whose 12th District includes Riverside north of the BNSF tracks, all of Brookfield south of Washington Avenue and a portion of Brookfield between Washington Avenue and 31st Street, did not cast a vote.
The other legislators representing the Landmark’s coverage area, including state Rep. LaShawn Ford (D-8th), Rep. Edgar Gonzalez Jr. (D-21st), Rep. Elizabeth Hernandez (D-24th) and state Sen. Celina Villanueva (D-11th) all voted in favor of repealing the law.
Zalewski said he supports a woman’s right to choose to have an abortion but did not support the repeal of the Parental Notification Act.
“As a husband of a loving, talented wife and father to three daughters, women’s rights are important to me,” Zalewski said in a text message to the Landmark. “I have voted for protecting a woman’s right to choose and to fund critical health care services for women many times in my tenure in Springfield. On this measure, I simply do not believe that relatively rare instances where parental notification is utilized justified taking a law off the books that could provide minors the help and counseling they need from their families in incredibly difficult circumstances.”
But, local progressive activists from Indivisible West Suburban Action League slammed Zalewski’s vote against the repeal, saying the current law “put the health and safety of young people in our state at serious risk.”
In a joint statement, the leaders of IWSAL, Lisa Janunas, Lindsay Morrison, Kendra Curry-Khanna and Josie Polanek, voiced gratitude to those who voted to repeal the law while taking Zalewski and Landek to task.
“Unfortunately, our local representative, Mike Zalewski chose to vote against defending and advancing women’s reproductive rights in Illinois and our state senator, Steve Landek, chose not to vote at all,” they said in a statement emailed to the Landmark. “We are extremely disappointed in their actions (or lack thereof) and demand an explanation of why they are voting against an overwhelming majority of voters who support these basic democratic beliefs.
“While abortion rights are quickly being chipped away around the country, it is more important than ever to protect reproductive rights in our state and keep abortion from becoming dangerous and illegal. By repealing PNA, we have solidified Illinois as a safe place for young people to turn to for health care. We applaud those representatives that stand up for our democratic beliefs and against the extreme anti-choice voices that are trying to criminalize abortion.”
The parental notice law in its current form was passed in 1995 but did not take effect until 2013 due to litigation.
The current law contains exceptions if the minor was a victim of physical or sexual abuse or neglect by an adult family member, if the minor is married or emancipated, or if the provider determines there is a medical emergency, or if an adult family member waives the notice in writing. A judge can also waive the requirement and has done so approximately 575 times since the law took effect, according to committee testimony.
Supporters of repealing the notice requirement said it deters many pregnant minors from seeking abortion services and could put them in danger if the parent who would be notified is their abuser.
They also argued that the judicial bypass provision is both intimidating and overly burdensome, especially since the onset of the pandemic, which forced many courts to stop holding in-person hearings.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker is expected to sign the repeal, but it will not go into effect until June 2022, because it did not get a three-fifths majority, 71 votes, in the House.
Peter Hancock and Jerry Nowicki of Capitol News Illinois contributed to this report.