ACLU lawsuit over abortion ( .PDF )
Kansas City, Kan. The American Civil Liberties Union on Tuesday filed a federal lawsuit challenging a new Kansas law that restricts insurance coverage for abortions, arguing that the measure discriminates against women.
The ACLU of Kansas and Western Missouri claims the law is unconstitutional because it prohibits women from buying insurance coverage for all of their health needs and doesn't put a similar restriction on men.
The law, approved by state lawmakers earlier this year, prohibits insurance companies from offering abortion coverage as part of their general health plans, except when a woman's life is at risk. Under the law, individuals and employers in Kansas who want abortion coverage will have to buy supplemental policies covering only abortion.
Supporters said the measure would protect employers who oppose abortion rights from having to pay for policies that cover the procedures. Critics said the policy was designed to limit access to abortion.
"Most insurance plans already cover abortion, along with other pregnancy-related services, including prenatal care," Doug Bonney, legal director of ACLU of Kansas and Western Missouri, said in a statement. "The state should not deprive a woman of the peace of mind of knowing that her insurance will cover all of her medical needs, including ending a pregnancy if she and her doctors decide that is the right decision for her and her family."
In the lawsuit, filed in federal court in Kansas City, Kan., the ACLU said its membership includes Kansas "women who have (or had) insurance plans that cover abortions but who will lose (or have already lost) that coverage because of the Act," and that the ACLU's mission is to defend "the individual freedoms embodied in the federal and Kansas and Missouri Constitutions, including the right to have an abortion."
The ACLU also claims the Kansas law "serves no legitimate state interest," and makes it more difficult for women to obtain and pay for abortions, which essentially imposes "an additional tax on the procedure."
Kansas Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger, whose office regulates state insurance laws, is named as defendant in the lawsuit, which seeks an injunction halting the law while the lawsuit proceeds.
Bob Hanson, spokesman for Praeger's office, said he could not comment because the insurance department's legal division had not yet reviewed the lawsuit.
Abortion opponents in Kansas have had several legislative victories since Gov. Sam Brownback, an anti-abortion Republican, took office in January. The state also passed laws further restricting late-term procedures, imposing new health and safety regulations on abortion clinics and requiring doctors to obtain parental consent before performing an abortion on a minor.
Kathy Ostrowski, legislative director for the anti-abortion group Kansans for Life, said in an email Tuesday that she also had not seen the ACLU's lawsuit. But she said "there are unfortunately too many zealots so wedded to an absolute right to abortion that they demand that everyone pay for it."
"In this case hoping our liberal state supreme court will approve what other states and the Supreme Court have not," Ostrowski said in the email.