Illinois is not known for its restrictive abortion laws. In fact, at the current time, Illinois retains only one meaningful legal restriction on abortion. That commonsense law, which requires parental notification (not consent) before a minor undergoes an abortion is still a bridge too far for one Illinois abortion provider. In an op-ed for the Chicago Sun-Times, abortion provider Dr. Allison Cowett calls Illinois’ Parental Notice of Abortion Act “dangerous,” and advocates for its repeal. But there are multiple reasons why Cowett’s claims should be heavily scrutinized.
A history of substandard care
While the Sun-Times describes Dr. Cowett as “medical director of Family Planning Associates Medical Group, one of the largest independent abortion facilities in the country,” the outlet fails to provide full disclosure about her background. Both Dr. Cowett and Family Planning Associates as a business have significant histories of providing substandard abortion care.
In 2015, Live Action News reported that an FPA abortion facility, Albany Medical-Surgical Center, closed after repeated failed safety inspections and the deaths of at least four abortion patients — including 13-year-old Deanna Bell, 22-year-old Maria Rodriquez, 26-year-old Maria Leho, and 16-year-old Nakia Jorden. Shockingly, the Albany Medical-Surgical Center had gone 18 years without inspections before finally receiving one in 2013.
Dr. Cowett has had 10 medical malpractice claims filed against her by previous abortion patients. She was also cited in a 2015 inspection for the violation of “Presence of a Qualified Physician” for leaving three post-op abortion patients unattended to accompany another abortion patient to the hospital. Then, in April of 2020, Live Action News noted that a 23-year-old post-abortive patient of Dr. Cowett’s was transferred to the hospital in critical condition, and that the incident was “the seventh known medical emergency at Family Planning Associates in the last 16 months.” FPA’s most recent 911 call was just three weeks ago.
The purpose and protection of parental notification
Dr. Cowett’s main argument against the parental notification law from her op-ed is the following:
Most of the young women in my practice involve a parent or trusted adult in their abortion decision. And the younger the teen, the more likely she is to involve an adult. These facts are true in my office and throughout Illinois.
Those who do not involve an adult do so with good reason — often because they are survivors of abuse or neglect. Some fear for their safety or the loss of shelter and food if their parents discover their pregnancy or their abortion decision. Others believe they will be forced to continue a pregnancy they did not plan and do not want.
In fact, parental notification laws recognize that abortion can be physically harmful to women, as underscored by Dr. Cowett and FPA’s history. Parents should absolutely be aware when their daughters are preparing to undergo an abortion, whether surgical or chemical.
Parental notification laws further help expose child abuse and trafficking, as abusers and traffickers are highly motivated to bring girls for abortions without their parents’ knowledge. Live Action’s Aiding Abusers investigative series showed just how willing abortion providers are to accept payment for their services without asking any uncomfortable questions. Perhaps the most telling reason that abortion providers argue for the repeal of parental notification is the impact on their financial bottom line. Illinois Right to Life previously noted that abortions on minors dropped by 55% after the state’s parental notification law took effect in 2013.
Dr. Cowett does note that Illinois’ parental notification law already has a judicial bypass option for young girls who feel that telling their parents or legal guardian about their abortion decision would jeopardize their safety. This judicial bypass option does, as Dr. Cowett states, require abortion-minded minors “to stand before a judge, prove their maturity and justify their abortion decision.” This is eminently reasonable, given the stark reality that a preborn person’s life is at stake and that abortion is physically risky for women.
Dr. Cowett applauds the young women who go through the judicial bypass process, then continues, “But these are not the young women I worry about… I worry about all the young women who never get to court, those who face violence at home or homelessness in the streets, those that have become mothers against their will.” Dr. Cowett fails to account for the fact that young girls who “are survivors of abuse or neglect” would not be helped by the repeal of the parental notification law, because having to go through the judicial bypass process in fact brings abuse and neglect to the attention of authorities who can help victims to escape dangerous living situations.
While Dr. Cowett’s arguments are typical of abortion providers and the industry at large, her advocacy for the repeal of a commonsense safety measure is particularly troubling, given her own and FPA’s history of malpractice. If Illinois’ parental notification law had not been in place, it’s possible that the first time the parents of 13-year-old Deanna Bell and 16-year-old Nakia Jorden would have heard about their daughters’ abortions could have been after their deaths.
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