When is Abortion Illegal in Illinois?

Apparently quite a few women who live in neighboring states have chosen to travel to Illinois to get an abortion. This is likely because Illinois has relatively relaxed abortion laws. While Roe v. Wade made it clear back in 1973 that women have the right to choose, many states have passed laws to make it more difficult for women to get abortions. Illinois has some provisions on the books that can limit when an abortion can be performed, but they are not particularly invasive.

Federal Abortion Law

The Supreme Court of the United States held that women have the right to get an abortion thanks to the 14th Amendment of the Constitution. However, the Court did not say that all abortions were legal. Instead, the Court explained that there is a certain time in a woman’s pregnancy in which abortion is lawful.

In 1992, the Court explained that states have the right to impose certain restrictions and requirements as long as they are not “for purpose or effect of placing a substantial obstacle in the path of a woman seeking an abortion of a nonviable fetus.”

Illinois Abortion Law

If it were up to lawmakers in Illinois, abortion would be illegal. Section 510/1 of the state’s Criminal Code explains that, for the purposes of state law, “the unborn child is a human being from the time of conception.” The law continues by explaining that abortion is only legal in the state because of the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade. There is a provision in the Code that automatically nullifies the state’s ban on abortion if Roe v. Wade is ever overturned.

Unlawful Abortion

For now, though, abortion is only against the law when the fetus is viable. State law, as set forth in 720 ILCS 510/2, explains that a fetus is viable when a physician believes, based on the particular facts of a case, that there is a “reasonable likelihood” that it would survive outside of the womb, “with or without artificial support.”

So, viability really depends on the doctor’s assessment of a situation. Generally speaking, fetuses are considered viable once a pregnancy reaches 23 or 24 weeks.

There are exceptions under state law if the mother’s health or life is endangered by a continued pregnancy. A doctor who performs an otherwise “unlawful abortion” may not be charged with a crime if it is to protect the mother.

Who Can Perform an Abortion?

Illinois state law provides that abortions may only be performed by licensed physicians within the state.

Minors and Abortion

Minors are not prohibited from getting abortions in Illinois. However, any woman under the age of 18 must notify a parent or guardian of her intent to get an abortion before the procedure can be done. State law requires that a parent is notified at least 48 hours prior to the abortion. This does not mean that the minor must receive parental consent. She must simply notify the parent or guardian.

Can a Pregnant Woman Be Punished For Getting an Abortion?

Abortion laws are tricky. While it seems like they are geared toward a pregnant woman’s behavior, they actually dictate what a doctor can and cannot do. As a result, doctors can face criminal charges for performing an abortion. There is no criminal penalty on the books for a woman who receives a late-term abortion.

Penalties for Performing an Abortion

Doctors who “intentionally or knowingly performs an abortion” in violation of Illinois law can be charged with a Class 2 Felony. In Illinois, a Class 2 Felony is punishable by 3-7 years in prison and $25,000 in fines.

Do Doctors Have to Perform Abortions?

No. Doctors have the right to refuse to perform abortions. However, things can become complicated when a doctor’s duty to provide emergency medical treatment becomes an issue. Doctors take an oath to do no harm, and refusing to perform an abortion if it is threatening a mother’s life may become a legal issue.

In most cases, doctors are protected from civil and criminal consequences of refusing to perform abortions under the Illinois Health Care Right of Conscience Act.

Experienced Defense Attorneys

Do you have questions about abortion law in Illinois? Contact the Kostopoulos Law Group and schedule a free consultation with our skilled legal team. Our experienced Chicago criminal defense attorneys would be happy to review your legal situation and offer some preliminary guidance.

Kostopoulos Law Group
125 S. Wacker Drive, Suite 300A
Chicago, IL 60606

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