A new Kansas law restricting insurance coverage for elective abortions will remain in effect while a court challenge proceeds.
A federal judge on Thursday denied a request by the American Civil Liberties Union to temporarily block the law, which was passed by the Kansas Legislature this year.
Ruling in Wichita, U.S. Senior District Judge Wesley Brown found that the ACLU failed to prove that the Legislature's primary motive was to create obstacles for women seeking an abortion.
The law bans private insurers from providing elective abortion coverage in Kansas unless the procedure is necessary to save the mother's life. The bill allows coverage for abortion, but women have to buy a separate rider for additional cost.
"On its face, the act does nothing to directly prohibit or restrict a woman from obtaining an abortion," Brown wrote in his 19-page opinion.
"Whether the practical effect of the law is to create a substantial obstacle is another question, but plaintiff has not attempted in this motion to put on evidence to establish such an effect."
The case will continue, although the judge concluded that the ACLU failed to show it would probably prevail on the merits of its case.
Brown's decision was one of two developments Thursday in the legal battles being waged over new Kansas abortion laws.
No intervention in suit over clinic rules
In a lawsuit challenging new licensing rules for abortion clinics, a federal judge in Kansas City, Kan., said an out-of-state group of physicians opposed to abortion couldn't intervene in that case as defendants.
U.S. District Judge Carlos Murguia said the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists had an interest in the case that was too remote and speculative.
The group sought to intervene, claiming its members have to unfairly bear the cost of women seeking treatment for complications from abortion procedures. However, Murguia ruled that the group offered vague and deficient evidence.
In June, Murguia temporarily blocked the new rules from starting, and the case is continuing. The physicians group was hoping to join the case and appeal that ruling.
The insurance law at issue in Thursday's other ruling was approved near dawn as the Kansas Legislature concluded business for 2011.
Abortion opponents said the law was intended to free employers from subsidizing a procedure that they think is morally wrong.
"Just as the right to travel freely does not force other citizens to buy me a car, the so-called right to abortion should not require citizens to pay for it," said Kathy Ostrowski, lobbyist for Kansans for Life.
The ACLU, however, sees the state trying to meddle in women's private lives.
"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.
Eight states, including Missouri, have laws that restrict insurance coverage of abortion, according to NARAL Pro-Choice America. The Missouri law, in place since 1983, was challenged by a woman who did not buy the optional rider and was denied coverage for an elective abortion. She won in District Court, but she lost on appeal.