Federal Judge Lets Kan. Abortion Insurance Law Stand While Lawsuit Continues

September 30, 2011 — A federal judge on Thursday refused to block a new Kansas law that prohibits insurance companies from including abortion coverage in health plans, the New York Times reports (Williams, New York Times, 9/29).

U.S. District Judge Wesley Brown did not rule on the merits of the law but said that the American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas and Western Missouri failed to prove that the measure "actually has the effect of creating a substantial obstacle to obtaining abortions."  He ordered an expedited schedule so the case could move more quickly through the courts (Hegeman, AP/Huffington Post, 9/29).

The measure, which took effect on July 1, limits the availability of insurance coverage for abortion services unless the procedure is needed to save a woman's life, though it does allow insurers to offer stand-alone policies. It also bans the sale of abortion coverage through health insurance exchanges that will be established under the federal health reform law (PL 111-148) (Women's Health Policy Report, 8/17).

Brown wrote in his ruling, "The law appears to rationally further a state interest in allowing the state's citizens to avoid paying insurance premiums for services to which they have a moral objection." He added, "Whether the practical effect of the law is to actually create a substantial obstacle is another question, but [the] plaintiff has not attempted in this motion to put on evidence to establish such an effect, and the court expresses no opinion here on that question."

Doug Bonney, legal director for ACLU of Kansas and Western Missouri, said, "The state has no business depriving a woman of insurance for vital services that are already covered by most health plans." He added, "If a woman and her doctor reach the decision that ending a pregnancy is the right choice for her and her family, she should have the peace of mind of knowing that her insurance will cover all of her medical needs."

The Kansas attorney general's office said it was pleased with the decision.

Judge Rules That Antiabortion Doctors' Group May Not Join Case

Separately, a federal judge ruled on Thursday that the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists may not join a lawsuit challenging a Kansas law on abortion clinic regulations. The judge rejected all of the group's arguments and said its intervention would unnecessarily delay the case (AP/Huffington Post, 9/29).

In August, the group appealed a federal court order that blocks enforcement of a new Kansas law requiring abortion clinics to meet certain building standards, obtain licenses and undergo inspections. The group said it has legal standing in the lawsuit because its members in Kansas are losing business to abortion clinics and placed at a competitive disadvantage because costs associated with abortion are passed on to them if complications ensue (Women's Health Policy Report, 8/4).