Last year, the state of Kansas passed a law that prohibited health insurance companies from including coverage for abortion into health insurance plans. The ACLU challenged the law, and sued the state of Kansas. Now, a Kansas judge has decided that the ACLU may have the ability to prove their assertions. She will hear the case.
In 2011, the state of Kansas passed a law that prohibited all health insurance companies, both public and private, from including coverage for abortion in a standard health insurance plan. The only exception would be if the woman’s life is at risk, and the only way to save her life would be for her to have an abortion. This ban included employer sponsored health insurance plans as well as individual health plans.
Women who wanted their health insurance to cover abortion would have to purchase a separate insurance rider. Anytime a person has to add a rider to their health insurance policy the result is that the person’s premiums get higher.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) challenged this law, and filed a lawsuit against the state of Kansas. The ACLU stated that this law discriminates against women. Men in Kansas can purchase full comprehensive coverage for all of their health needs, but women in Kansas have to buy a separate policy to add abortion coverage. The ACLU claims that the purpose of this law is to inhibit women from getting abortions.
Originally, the ACLU asked that the law be blocked, and unenforced, until after the court case had been heard and ruled upon. The presiding judge at that time was U.S. District Judge Wesley Brown. He denied this request because he felt that he ACLU had “failed to present sufficient evidence that its members will suffer irreparable harm while the case is decided”.
U.S. District Judge Wesley Brown passed away before this case was scheduled to be heard. The case has been passed to another judge, U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson. The state of Kansas asked the judge to dismiss a key claim made by the ACLU. The state wanted the judge to dismiss the part of the ACLU’s argument that discusses equal protection. Judge Robinson did not choose to do so.
Judge Robinson believes that the ACLU might be able to show at trial that the state of Kansas imposed an undue burden by creating a substantial obstacle to a woman who is seeking an abortion. She said that the “argument gets closer to the heart of the issue – namely whether the means used by the state of Kansas to further its interests, including its interest in protecting potential life, can be considered legitimate in view of individual liberty”.
She also noted that the Supreme Court has not made it clear how to consider an abortion-related challenge under an equal protection theory. This is a new argument.
The law that banned health insurance companies from covering abortion in health insurance plans went into effect on July 1, 2011. Since then, women in Kansas are either paying out of pocket for the procedure, or they have spent money on the extra insurance rider.
Image by Brad Patterson on Flickr