By Brendan O'Brien
CHICAGO (Reuters) - A parent must be notified 48 hours before a girl under the age of 18 gets an abortion in Illinois, the state Supreme Court ruled on Thursday, ending nearly two decades of legal wrangling over the issue.
The Illinois court decision is the latest in a series of state measures adopted recently to restrict abortion. Texas and North Carolina are currently considering more restrictions on abortion and Republicans across the United States have championed similar measures.
The earliest the court's ruling can be enforced is 21 days, according to Paul Linton, an attorney representing the Thomas More Society, an anti-abortion law firm that has been involved in the case.
The plaintiff in the case, the Hope Clinic for Women in Granite City, Illinois, can appeal Thursday's ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Minors from other states traveled to Illinois to get abortions because it was the only Midwestern state where a parental notification law was not enforced, the Thomas More Society said in a statement.
There are now 22 states that require parents be notified when a minor seeks an abortion, according to the Guttmacher Institute, the nonprofit sexual health research organization.
"This is a huge victory for the rights of parents not only in Illinois but in all Midwestern states," said Tom Brejcha, president and chief counsel of the Thomas More Society.
Planned Parenthood of Illinois, which opposed the Parental Notice of Abortion Act, said it was disappointed by the decision. The organization provides health counseling and services including abortion.
The law is based on "outdated, ideological and unsupported assumptions about the purported harms of abortion which have been shown to be inaccurate," said Lorie Chaiten, reproductive rights project director at the ACLU of Illinois, which represented the clinic in the case.
Illinois passed a law in 1995 requiring doctors who perform abortions to notify a parent 48 hours before the procedure unless there was a medical emergency or in cases of incest or abuse.
In 1996, a federal judge stopped enforcement of the law because no rules had been adopted that allowed a girl to seek permission from the courts to undergo an abortion without notifying a parent. The law has been the subject of legal sparring ever since.
While the law requires the doctor to notify a parent, the girl does not need parental consent to get an abortion.
The long delay implementing the 1995 law is unusual, according to Kurt Lash, a constitutional law professor at the University of Illinois.
"I'm not aware of a similar situation where resolution was pending for so many years," Lash said.
Lash said one explanation was that lawmakers and judges in the 1980s and 1990s were still trying to sort out the political and legal implications of the 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision granting women the right to abortion in the United States.
(Reporting by Brendan O'Brien; Editing by Greg McCune, Gerald E. McCormick and Lisa Shumaker)