Kari Ann Rinker, State Coordinator for Kansas National Organization for Women (NOW) and Member of ACLU of Kansas and Western Missouri
Today the ACLU of Kansas and Western Missouri brought a challenge against my home state’s ban on comprehensive insurance coverage of abortion. The case was brought on behalf of the ACLU’s members who are losing their abortion coverage as a result of the law — I am one of those members. I am also the State Coordinator for Kansas NOW, and a large part of my job is to keep abreast of the Kansas Legislature. I have watched and fought against piece after piece of anti-abortion legislation that has been pushed through in the 2011 session. Every piece of this legislation has become law, rubber-stamped by a governor who has promised to promote a "culture of life" within the state. But this so called "culture of life" puts the very health of Kansas women in jeopardy and drastically infringes upon their individual rights.
One of the most outrageous moments of the legislative session came during the debate over the abortion insurance ban. Rep. Pete DeGraaf, (who supported the bill) was questioned about pregnancies resulting from rape or other unplanned circumstances. Rep. DeGraaf replied, "We have to plan in life don’t we? I have a spare tire in my car." Unbelievably, the representative was comparing unplanned pregnancies (even those resulting from sexual assault) to the inconvenience of a flat tire.
This legislation and this debate certainly caught my attention. The language of the law is particularly restrictive: there is no exception for the health of the woman or if the fetus has anomalies that are incompatible with life. It has no exception for rape or incest. Abortions should be considered medical care that should be a part of any comprehensive insurance plan.
I have an individual insurance policy for which I pay a monthly fee. That monthly payment is an investment in the health and well-being of my family. My policy insures that any unforeseen circumstances or life events will be met with some sense of financial security and stability. These unforeseen circumstances should rightly include the termination of a pregnancy. Many things can happen in a pregnancy beyond a woman’s control. A woman needs to know that her insurance will cover abortion care if that is what she needs.
But the law we are challenging takes that coverage away. Abortion coverage may only be offered through a separate rider. I called my insurance company only to find out that my insurance company will not offer an abortion rider for my insurance plan. There is now no way for me to obtain coverage from my insurance company for this legal medical procedure. This is a direct result of the law. Quite simply, this law inserts politicians into health care, which results in bad health policy for all.
I, for one, am tired of the verbal and legislative assault on women. I am sickened that my daughter and I are unprotected citizens of the state. The door of government infringement upon the lives of women seems to have been left wide open and has an arch large enough for any extreme moral agenda item to pass through. It is with pride that I stand with the ACLU as we attempt to close the door of government infringement.
Thus far, our Kansas courts have brought fair interpretation and analysis to bear on legislation fueled by radical political momentum. I will keep my faith in the judicial system, ever thankful for the balance of power that our system brings. I will stand with the ACLU in gratitude for the opportunity to shed the light of justice in our state where things are often dark for reproductive rights and justice.
Are you one of the many women who needed an abortion but your insurance refused to cover it? Let us know what happened and what it meant for you.