Federal judge sides with Catholic clinic, halts Colorado’s ban on ‘abortion reversal’ treatment

(The Center Square) – A federal judge ruled over the weekend in favor of a Catholic health care clinic that’s challenging Colorado’s ban on “abortion reversal” treatment.

U.S. District…

(The Center Square) – A federal judge ruled over the weekend in favor of a Catholic health care clinic that’s challenging Colorado’s ban on “abortion reversal” treatment.

U.S. District Court Judge Daniel Domenico on Saturday issued a preliminary injunction in favor of Englewood-based Bella Health and Wellness, which bars the state from enforcing Senate Bill 23-190. The law, passed by Democrats in the last legislative session, makes it “unprofessional conduct for a person … to provide, prescribe, administer, or attempt medication abortion reversal.”

Medication abortions terminate a pregnancy with the use of two drugs consecutively: mifepristone, which inhibits the hormone progesterone, and misoprostol, which is used to clear the embryo from the uterus.  

Bella and other faith-based health clinics sometimes use progesterone, which is commonly prescribed to mothers at risk of miscarriage, in cases where mifepristone is used, but a mother decides not to go through with an abortion and doesn’t take the misoprostol pill. The practice is commonly referred to as “abortion pill reversal.”

SB 23-190 calls abortion reversal “a dangerous and deceptive practice that is not supported by science or clinical standards.”

Bella argues in its lawsuit filed in April that Colorado’s ban on using progesterone to reverse the abortion pill violates the free exercise clause of the First Amendment.

“Bella and its providers sincerely believe that they are religiously obligated to assist any woman facing a threat of miscarriage who requests their help, whether that risk arises biologically, due to physical trauma, or because she willingly or unwillingly took the first abortion pill,” the initial complaint said. 

Domenico said “there is no question whether” part of the law burdens the Catholic clinic’s free exercise of religion.

“Bella Health considers it a religious obligation to provide treatment for pregnant mothers and to protect unborn life if the mother seeks to stop or reverse an abortion,” he wrote in the order Saturday.

The lawsuit proceeded after three state boards weighed in earlier this year. The Colorado Medical Board said it does not consider administering progesterone “with the intent to interfere with, reverse, or halt a medication abortion … generally accepted standards of medical practice,” while both the Colorado State Board of Pharmacy and State Board of Nursing said they wouldn’t treat abortion reversal as “unprofessional conduct” but would evaluate on a case-by-case basis.

“Colorado is trying to make outlaws of doctors and nurses providing life-saving and compassionate care to women they serve,” Rebekah Ricketts, counsel at The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which is representing Bella, said in a statement. “This ruling ensures that pregnant women across the state will receive the care they deserve and won’t be forced to have abortions against their will.”  

Nationally, mifepristone has been in the spotlight after a federal court in April blocked the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s approval of the drug. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit then ruled in August that “Those [FDA] actions—which generally loosen the protections and regulations relating to the use of mifepristone—will be stayed during the pendency of this litigation.”