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Judge refuses to block Kan. abortion insurance law

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WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A federal judge refused on Thursday to block enforcement of a new Kansas law that restricts insurance coverage for abortions.

U.S. District Judge Wesley Brown rejected a request from the American Civil Liberties Union for a temporary injunction while the group challenges the law in court. Judge Brown said the ACLU, which filed its lawsuit in August, failed to back its claim that legislators who passed the law this year primarily intended to create obstacles to obtaining abortions.

The Kansas law took effect July 1. It prohibits insurance companies from offering abortion coverage as part of their general health plans, except when a woman's life is at risk. Those who want abortion coverage would have to buy supplemental policies, known as riders, covering only abortion.

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

Judge Brown, who at age 104 is the nation's oldest sitting federal judge, followed the recommendation of U.S. Magistrate Judge Kenneth Gale, who had a hearing in the lawsuit earlier this month. Judge Gale concluded that the ACLU failed to prove that any of its members would be harmed by the law, a requirement when seeking a temporary injunction.

The insurance law was 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 he took 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 blocked temporarily by two other federal judges pending trial on their constitutionality.

Supporters of the insurance restrictions for abortion contend that people who oppose abortion shouldn't be forced to pay for such coverage in a general health plan.

But the ACLU contends the law is unconstitutional because its real purpose is to limit a woman's financial ability to get an abortion. The group also argues that the law is discriminatory because men can buy a general health plan for all of their reproductive needs.

Before ruling earlier this month, Judge Gale also heard arguments from the state's attorneys. They argued that lawmakers were expressing "the conscience of its people" in passing the legislation because abortion opponents should not have to subsidize the procedure in a general health insurance plan.

Judge Brown wrote in Thursday's order that "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."

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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