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Archive for Thursday, September 29, 2011

Federal judge refuses to block Kansas’ new abortion insurance law

September 29, 2011, 11:00 a.m. Updated September 29, 2011, 1:27 p.m.

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— A federal judge refused Thursday to block a new Kansas law restricting insurance coverage for abortions, saying opponents failed to prove their claim that legislators’ real intent was to create obstacles for women seeking abortions.

The law prohibits insurance companies from offering abortion coverage as part of general health plans, except when a woman’s life is at risk. Patients who want abortion coverage must buy supplemental policies, known as riders, covering only abortion.

The ruling means that women seeking an abortion in Kansas will need to buy a rider or pay for the procedure out-of-pocket if their insurance policies are new or were renewed after the law took effect July 1.

The American Civil Liberties Union sued the state in August, arguing that the law’s true intent was to impose an unconstitutional burden on abortion seekers, and asked that the law be put on hold during the court fight.

U.S. District Judge Wesley Brown rejected the request, saying the ACLU didn’t provide evidence that the law “actually has the effect of creating a substantial obstacle to obtaining abortions.” The ACLU also claimed the law was discriminatory because men can buy a general health plan for all their reproductive needs, but Brown said the group failed to show a likelihood of prevailing on that claim, too.

But the judge told the ACLU it could try again, noting his decision wasn’t a final ruling on the merits of the group’s claims. He also ordered an expedited schedule so the case would move more quickly through the courts.

The law was among several major anti-abortion initiatives approved by Kansas legislators and signed into law this year by Republican Gov. Sam Brownback, who called on lawmakers to create “a culture of life” after he took office in January. Supporters of the insurance restrictions contended that people who oppose abortion shouldn’t be forced to pay for such coverage in a general health plan.

“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,” Brown wrote in his 19-page order. “Whether the practical effect of the law is to actually create a substantial obstacle is another question, but 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.”

The Kansas attorney general’s office said it was pleased with Brown’s decision. The ACLU noted it was only a preliminary ruling and vowed to keep fighting.

“The state has no business depriving a woman of insurance for vital services that are already covered by most health plans,” said Doug Bonney, legal director for the ACLU of Kansas and Western Missouri. “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 ruling was a setback for abortion rights advocates, who have successfully blocked enforcement of other new Kansas laws dealing with abortion. Federal judges have temporarily blocked two laws — one dealing with strict abortion clinic regulations and another that strips federal family planning dollars from a Planned Parenthood chapter — pending trial on their constitutionality.

Brown said the insurance law appears to draw heavily from federal law. He noted that the federal health care overhaul also authorized states to prohibit abortion coverage in policies sold on state-level exchanges, where individuals and small businesses would be able to choose from different health care plans and compare coverage options. The new Kansas law has such a provision.

As for the ACLU’s claim that the law violates its members’ rights to equal protection, since men could buy general policies for their reproductive needs, the judge sided with the state. Brown, who at age 104 is the nation’s oldest sitting federal judge, agreed that such a contention must be reviewed but said the ACLU didn’t provide enough evidence to convince him.

In a separate case challenging another abortion law, a federal judge refused on Thursday to allow a national anti-abortion doctors’ group to join a lawsuit over Kansas’ new abortion clinic regulations. The judge said intervention by the by American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists would unnecessarily delay the case, and shot down all of the group’s arguments.

Comments

verity 2 years, 6 months ago

I have a question. Does any female reading this expect to be in a situation where they will be in the position of choosing to have an abortion---or anyone who has had an abortion---did you expect to be in that situation?

I am a female past childbearing, but I don't think there was ever a time in my life that I would have thought that I would need that kind of insurance. So who do you think will buy it? Or is that the point---or did our forward thinking legislatures think that far ahead?

I agree with Jafs---there are so many things I have to help pay for that I don't agree with. Health problems caused by sheer laziness are one of those. Eliminate all the diseases by choice and there might actually be a significant drop in health care costs.

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kansanjayhawk 2 years, 6 months ago

I guess some of the naysayers on this site who said none of these laws would be upheld are going to have to "eat their head" as a famous quote goes in "Oliver Twist"!!!

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Cait McKnelly 2 years, 6 months ago

I have an idea. Make abortion in cases of rape payable from the Victim's Assistance Fund, which is managed by the State's AG Office.

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Vroo 2 years, 6 months ago

As long as this law is in effect, insurance companies should offer policies both with and without abortion coverage. Since abortion is cheaper than childbirth, plans with abortion coverage should be lower.

To paraphrase the judge, "allowing the State’s citizens to pay higher insurance premiums to avoid paying for services to which they have a moral objection."

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thebigspoon 2 years, 6 months ago

Jafs has hit the nail on the head. There are so many more diseases and maladies that you and I are paying for that are quite preventable that we pay for in our insurance policies that this abortion thing pales (if it, indeed, ever shined at all). Take, for instance type B diabetes. The major cause of this thing is incorrect diet and lack of exercise. One need only stand at the WalMart pharmacy counter for a couple of hours to see the results of people not taking care of themselves and buying, through insurance, diabetes-fighting drugs. Take a good look at the pervasiveness of heart and artery disease: same thing applies here. Diet, exercise and liffestyle issues abound, and yet I, and you who have insurance, pay out the nose for the risks that others take. In addition, most insurance companies offer post-heart-procedure patients quite a lot in therapeutic programs aimed at rehabilitation of those patients. That's good, but also costs those of you who do not need or use those services quite a chunk of your insurance premium.

The point is that, regardless how much I admire Judge Brown, he missed the point in saying that this prohibition is different than other costly insurance additions, none of which are extra-cost additions to standard policies. One can argue that aortion is "wrong" or that it is strictly an elective procedure (both of which arguments are moot) but one can not argue that this law has placed an unreasonable restriction on a single group of people: those who need an abortion and those who must agree to pay for the procedure when and if it becomes a necessary option. That, my friends, is an unconstitutional restriction and should be dealt with by either 1) removing the restriction from all insurance policies, or 2) removing all "elective" maladies from all insurance policies. We can not have it both ways if we are to acknowledge the equal protection clauses of our Constitution. Too, it is mandatory that existing policies without abortion restrictions should reflect the lower premium inherent in removing the at-risk procedure and groups from the policies. Otherwise, we have bias toward the rest of the policy holders, which, in turn, is unconstitutional.

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BornAgainAmerican 2 years, 6 months ago

At 104 Brown is, apparently, more lucid than most of the Extremist Liberal Whackos who have chosen to post in this forum.

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zzgoeb 2 years, 6 months ago

Here in Brownbackistan we fight the evil Feds from providing healthcare for all, while making the ultimate intrusion into a woman's life, AND insurance choice. What hypocrisy!!! We need to throw good ol' Governor Sam out on his keester soon!!! Wake up Kansans and recall this knucklehead!!!!

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appleaday 2 years, 6 months ago

Many women don't have a "choice" about abstinence. The percentage of women/girls who will be molested or raped in their lifetime is somewhere around 25%. Young women who get pregnant in high school or younger often wind up in abusive relationships because, not being able to finish high school, they are financially dependent on some guy. Unconsensual sex can occur even in a marriage and many abusive males refuse to let their partners use contraception (it's part of their control fixation). I don't like abortion, either, but I don't see the militant "pro-life" people doing anything substantive to help prevent unwanted pregnancies or to assist women and infants once the babies are born. The "diaper drives" at the local church may help the smug and the self-righteous to feel even better about themselves but do little to actually help the lives of these infants. How about helping these women to finish their education so they can get jobs that can get them out of abusive relationships and off the public assistance?

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scarletbhound 2 years, 6 months ago

Judge Brown is one of the finest jurists in the country. The NYTimes recently did a major feature story on him that quoted law professors, other judges and lawyers as to his competency and how much people in the legal profession admire him. Also, he was the judge who handled the KU ticket scandal cases. Didn't see any complaints from people about the judge in those cases. As Brown says, the law under question does not threaten basic abortion rights -- just doesn't force people who have moral objections to the procedure to pay for it. In other words, don't force your pro-choice ideas on those who disagree. What could be more American? Brown is a great judge -- and even at age 104 is far sharper than most of us (myself included).

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varsity_cheer 2 years, 6 months ago

I believe the law makes concessions for life threatening circumstances which is good. Otherwise, people should choose abstinence until they are mature enough mentally to make the decision to have a child. Be prepared to accept the consequences if you choose to have a sexual relationship. Abortion should not be used as birth control no matter who pays for it.

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beatrice 2 years, 6 months ago

At 104, he is his high school reunion.

That is at least 412 tri-mesters old. He is literally older than the Model T. That isn't a joke.

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tomatogrower 2 years, 6 months ago

It's time to start a fund to help rape victims get an abortion. We should call it the "Spare Tire" fund. I would send fund raising letters to everyone of the reps in Topeka, but especially the one who was stupid enough to compare the abortion insurance to preparing for a flat tire.

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felixiscariot 2 years, 6 months ago

Interesting little factoid about old man Wesley brown. He was appointed by JFK. that's pretty neat.

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Pastor_Bedtime 2 years, 6 months ago

The old drooling fart probably doesn't even know what he's just signed... they just put papers in front of him and it's a done deal.

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oletimer 2 years, 6 months ago

Brown and Brownback make a hell of a team. You don't say no to the gov if you want to keep your cushy job, right judge? What a joke.

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theoljhawk 2 years, 6 months ago

Maybe everyone should keep their pants on until they are ready to accept the consequences! i thought elective surgeries were paid for by the patient unless there was a medical reason for the procedure. And "I don't want to have a baby" is not a legitimate medical reason!

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Pastor_Bedtime 2 years, 6 months ago

A 104-year-old judge is incompetent merely by age. Boot the coot.

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ksjayhawk74 2 years, 6 months ago

So now if a young girl gets raped, beyond her and her family having to deal with the terrible emotional trauma, they would also have to pay for an abortion procedure... Unless they had the foresight to pay for abortion insurance for their young daughter, just in case...

Maybe the next law passed will make a rape victim have to get the written permission of her attacker to be able to get an abortion.

This isn't Big Government, right?

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oldvet 2 years, 6 months ago

Similar to asking for fire insurance coverage you didn't buy until after your house burned down...

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dogsandcats 2 years, 6 months ago

I guess wait until he dies (since it should be soon at 104) then try again?

"In his 19-page order, Brown wrote the ACLU’s argument “lacks any evidentiary showing that the law actually has the effect of creating a substantial obstacle to obtaining an abortion."

Let's see, people don't buy the special abortion rider because they don't foresee having to have an abortion and they don't want to continuously pay for something they may never need, then something happens and now they want an abortion, but their insurance won't cover it. What other evidence would you need?

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felixiscariot 2 years, 6 months ago

104!?!? aaaaaaahahahahahahahaha....HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!

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bobberboy 2 years, 6 months ago

Womens Rights 1 Brownback, Koch Brothers, other GOP fundamentalist right wing freaks 0

:>)

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somedude20 2 years, 6 months ago

"Brown, who at age 104"...wait, what? Wow!

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hujiko 2 years, 6 months ago

Life has a 100% mortality rate.

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Kirk Larson 2 years, 6 months ago

Since, statistically, child birth is more dangerous than abortion, aren't these doctors passing off the complcations of pregnancy to other doctors?

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costello 2 years, 6 months ago

"The doctors’ group claims its members in Kansas are losing childbirth business to abortion clinics."

Oh, for God's sake! That's a stretch.

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