NRL News

Nonprofit Catholic healthcare clinic seeks to halt Colorado’s ban on Abortion Pill Reversal

by | Sep 25, 2023

By Dave Andrusko

Lawyers for Bella Health and Wellness, a nonprofit Catholic healthcare clinic, have filed a lawsuit asking that the state of Colorado be stopped from enforcing a first-of-its-kind law that targets religious healthcare clinics that offer women care in accordance with their faith. Hannah Metzger, writing for Colorado Politics, explains, “The new Colorado law states that providing the abortion reversal treatment is considered engaging in unprofessional conduct, subject to discipline.”

Paraphrasing the brief filed by Becket Fund for Religious Liberty in the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado, Mary Anne Pazanowski, Legal Reporter for Bloomberg Law, wrote

The law is a “national and international outlier,” Bella Health and Wellness said in a Sept. 22 brief arguing that it’s likely to win on the merits of its claim that the provision is unconstitutional. The abortion-reversal law violates the free exercise and speech rights of health-care providers that have religious objections to abortion, it said.

Abortion Reversal is for those women who after taking the first of two drugs that make up “medication abortion” regime, have a change of heart. Instead of taking the second drug, they take progesterone, which is an updated application of a treatment used since the 1950s to combat miscarriage. As many as 68% of these babies can be saved—and over 4,000 to date have been.

Colorado law has made it illegal for religious healthcare clinics like Bella to offer women progesterone. “This will force women to go through abortions they seek to avoid,” Becket wrote.

The Becket brief went on to say

In April 2023, Colorado made it illegal for life-affirming healthcare clinics like Bella Health to offer progesterone to women who have willingly or unwillingly taken the abortion pill, or even to advertise for such a service. Even though progesterone has been safely used for years to promote healthy pregnancies, the Colorado Legislature has categorically denied its use for abortion pill reversal. State legislators have labeled its use in this context to be “deceptive” and “unprofessional conduct,” while its use for all other purposes relating to pregnancy—including natural miscarriage—remains legal. If it continues to offer and advertise progesterone for this service, Bella Health faces up to $20,000 per violation and the loss of the medical licenses for its providers. Colorado is targeting life-affirming healthcare clinics like Bella Health simply because they provide every option available for the health of expecting mothers and their unborn children. It is also forcing women to undergo abortions they seek to avoid. 

Meanwhile, last week, the Colorado Nursing Board broke

with the state medical board, refusing to classify abortion pill reversal treatment as unprofessional conduct.

“The nursing board passed a rule declaring it will not treat abortion reversal as a ‘per se act subjecting a licensee to discipline’ for providing the treatment, but will instead review individual complaints of abortion reversal treatment on a case-by-case basis,” Hannah Metzger reported for Colorado Politics.

“The (nursing) board, historically, has pretty much treated everything case-by-case for review and discipline,” said Joe Franta, president of the nursing board, during Wednesday’s vote. “We don’t make general standards of care. We don’t create those. … I don’t think we have the basis to do that.”

Metzger wrote, “The new Colorado law states that providing the reversal treatment is considered engaging in unprofessional conduct, subject to discipline. That will hold unless three professional licensing entities — the medical board and the state boards of nursing and pharmacy — all decide, by Oct. 1, that they consider the treatment a generally accepted standard of practice.”

However, as noted, since the Colorado Medical Board has already adopted rules that do not consider the reversal treatment a generally accepted practice, “it’s now impossible for the three boards to reach a consensus in its favor.”

The Colorado Medical Board voted to push back enforcement of its rules until at least Oct. 23.