ACLU Challenges Kansas Ban on Insurance Coverage for Abortions

August 16, 2011 11:53 am

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TOPEKA, Kan. – The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Kansas and Western Missouri filed a lawsuit today challenging a Kansas law that prohibits insurance companies from including coverage for abortion in their comprehensive plans. Since 2010, 13 states have enacted laws that prohibit some or all insurance policies from covering abortion care. Today’s lawsuit, ACLU of Kansas and Western Missouri v. Praeger, is the first to challenge one of these laws.

“Politicians should not interfere in what should remain a private medical decision,” said Kari Ann Rinker, state coordinator for the Kansas chapter of the National Organization for Women. Rinker’s insurance company will eliminate coverage for abortion in her plan because of the law. “For too long, my home state of Kansas has been the epicenter of an effort to erode a woman’s access to abortion. Enough is enough.”

The law prohibits comprehensive insurance plans from covering any abortion other than one to save a woman’s life. This part of the law does permit companies to offer a separate rider to cover non-lifesaving abortions for an additional cost. However, some insurers have indicated they will not offer such riders to some or all of their customers, leaving women to pay out of pocket for a service previously covered by insurance.

“This law is part of a nationwide trend to take away insurance coverage for a legal medical procedure that is an important part of basic health care for women,” said Brigitte Amiri, senior staff attorney with the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project. “Many things can happen in a pregnancy that are beyond a woman’s control, so having insurance coverage for abortion ensures that every woman can get the health care she may need.”

In addition, the law bans abortion coverage except in very limited instances in policies sold in a newly created insurance marketplace, or exchange, that will begin operating in 2014. The law does not permit riders for these plans.

“Most insurance plans already cover abortion, along with other pregnancy-related services, including prenatal care,” said ACLU of Kansas and Western Missouri legal director Doug Bonney. “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.”

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