U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson rejected the state’s request to dismiss a key challenge to the law, allowing the ACLU to continue pursuing its claims that the law is unconstitutional because it illegally singles out women. 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 then buy supplemental policies called riders that cover only abortions.
According to the ACLU, the law discriminates against women since men can buy full comprehensive coverage for all their health care needs but women must buy a separate policy at an additional cost to add abortion coverage. The purpose behind the rider law is to discourage women from seeking abortions and to make it too expense to pay for them.
The decision may also be the product of a fresh set of eyes. Robinson, the federal judge in Topeka overseeing the case, was assigned to it after the judge who had previously been handling the case, U.S. District Judge Wesley Brown, died earlier this year.
Brown had refused to block enforcement of the law last year saying the ACLU had failed to prove their claim that the real intent of legislators was to create obstacles for women seeking abortions. This week Judge Robinson disagreed.
In her ruling Robinson made it clear that the undue burden adopted by the Supreme Court is the appropriate means of balancing the state’s interest in potential human life with a woman’s “constitutionally protected liberty” to have an abortion. However, the Supreme Court has not yet clarified how to consider an abortion-related challenge under an equal protection theory which is one of the key claims to the ACLU’s challenge, so this issue is far from settled.
That means we could be looking at yet another abortion lawsuit that may be destined to go before the Roberts Court in the coming years.
Photo from Naval History & Heritage Command via flickr.