Wichita The state of Kansas has defended a new law that restricts insurance coverage for abortions, arguing it has an interest in protecting human life and in favoring childbirth over abortion.
The argument is part of the state's response filed late Tuesday to a temporary injunction sought by the American Civil Liberties Union in a lawsuit challenging the new law. The ACLU contends the law is unconstitutional because it prohibits women from buying insurance coverage for all their health needs while not putting a similar restriction on men.
The insurance law is among several major anti-abortion initiatives approved by Kansas legislators and signed into law this year by Gov. Sam Brownback, a Republican who called upon lawmakers to create "a culture of life" after taking office in January. Two other new state statutes — one dealing with stricter abortion clinic regulations and the other stripping federal funding from a Planned Parenthood chapter — have been temporarily blocked by two other federal judges pending trial on their constitutionality.
U.S. Magistrate Kenneth Gale will hear arguments Friday in Wichita on the ACLU's request to block enforcement of the law until the matter is settled at trial. Gale will then make a recommendation to U.S. District Judge Wesley Brown, who at 104-years-old is too frail to preside himself over long hearings.
At issue in Friday's hearing is whether to the federal court should also issue a preliminary injunction against the new insurance law, which prohibits private companies from offering coverage of elective abortions as part of their regular health plans. As of July 1, people wanting such coverage must purchase separate, abortion-only policies.
Its supporters contend people opposing abortion shouldn't be forced to subsidize the coverage for others in a general health plan. The ACLU contends the law is designed to limit a woman's financial ability to get an abortion and is discriminatory on equal protection grounds because men's health coverage isn't restricted.
In her court response to ACLU's request for an injunction, Kansas Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger argued that federal law and policy gives Kansas the right to regulate insurance coverage for abortion, noting that 14 other states have similarly regulated coverage for the procedure.
The state argued that having to pay the full cost of an abortion without a subsidy by other people who are insured is not a violation of a constitutional right. It contends that an increase in the cost of an abortion does not place an "undue burden" on the right to an abortion.
Kansas also argued it has broad powers to regulate the insurance industry, noting insurance regulations are difficult to challenge on constitutional grounds such as due process or equal protection so long as the legislation is rationally related to a legitimate government purpose.
Kansas contended in its court filing that it is "both proper and rational for the State to regulate insurance in a way that seeks to protect potential human life and to promote childbirth over abortion."
The state also noted that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act expressly authorized the states to prohibit abortion coverage in policies sold on the state exchanges.
Besides Kansas, other states that elected to prohibit abortion coverage through the exchange include Arizona, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Utah, and Virginia.
"Deciding whether to finance an abortion out of one's pocket or whether to purchase a rider to one's health insurance policy to cover abortion services necessarily results in a fuller and better understanding of the actual costs of abortion," the state argued.