Colorado clinic fights to keep offering abortion pill reversal
A new state law bans prescribing progesterone to counteract mifepristone
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported over 600,000 abortions performed in 2020, with over 50 percent of those pregnancies terminated by abortion drugs. But if a woman regrets her decision to take abortion-inducing medication, can a chemical abortion be reversed? The answer is yes—but not in Colorado.
On April 14, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis signed a law banning healthcare workers from offering abortion pill–reversing medication to patients. The same day, Bella Health and Wellness, a Roman Catholic healthcare clinic, filed suit against legislators on the grounds of religious discrimination.
Mother-daughter nurse practitioner duo Dede Chism and Abby Sinnett co-founded Bella Health and Wellness in 2014. “We opened Bella because of our belief that life is a precious gift from God, worthy of protection at all stages,” Chism said in a news release. “When a woman seeks our help to reverse the effects of the abortion pill, we have a religious obligation to offer every available option for her and her child.”
A woman undergoing a chemical abortion takes two drugs. The first, mifepristone, blocks her body’s production of the hormone progesterone, causing the uterine lining to thin, rendering the uterus uninhabitable for the embryo. The mother typically takes the second drug, misoprostol, a day or two later to induce labor.
Before the woman takes the second drug, she can reverse the effects of mifepristone by taking extra doses of progesterone to restabilize the uterus, a treatment often called abortion pill reversal. Bella Health administers this treatment for women who regret starting the chemical abortion regimen.
“All we want is to continue our ministry of serving expecting mothers in need, regardless of circumstance,” said Sinnett in a news release. “A pregnant woman needs to know that she and her unborn child will be treated with the utmost dignity and care.”
The new Colorado law describes the use of progesterone to reverse abortions as “a dangerous and deceptive practice that is not supported by science or clinical standards.” The measure declares it “unprofessional conduct” for healthcare facilities to “provide, prescribe, administer, or attempt medication abortion reversal.”
The law prohibits abortion pill reversal unless the Colorado boards for medical, pharmacy, and nursing put into effect rules acknowledging the process is a generally accepted standard of practice by Oct. 1. The law does not ban facilities from using progesterone in other medical circumstances, such as natural miscarriage.
The lawsuit asserts that the legislation violates Bella Health’s religious freedom under the free exercise clause by forcing the clinic owners to choose between upholding their religious convictions or potentially losing their medical licensure and suffering financial penalties.
“Bella and its providers sincerely believe that they are religiously obligated to assist any woman facing a threat of miscarriage who requests their help,” reads the suit. “Colorado, in no uncertain terms, now tells them that if they choose to follow their religious beliefs, they risk losing their licenses and face crushing financial penalties.”
Laura Wolk Slavis of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty serves as co-counsel representing Bella Heath in Bella Health and Wellness v. Weiser. Slavis described the law as “the opposite of choice,” asserting that it “targets women who have changed their minds and forces them to undergo abortions they want to stop,” which in effect, “tramples the constitutional rights of these women and their doctors.”
Less than a day after the suit was filed, U.S. District Judge Daniel D. Domenico granted Bella Health a two-week reprieve from the ordinance.“We are grateful for the late-night order allowing us to continue this work and are hopeful that the court will ultimately allow us to continue to serve these women,” Chism and Sinnett told WORLD in a joint statement. “No woman, let alone her unborn child, should ever be turned away from the life-affirming healthcare they choose.”
Domenico held a hearing Monday to determine whether or not to extend the preliminary injunction. The court has yet to release its ruling on the motion.
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