Abortion Pill Reversal

Judge rules to extend temporary block on Colorado’s abortion pill reversal ban

Update 10/23/23: A federal judge has temporarily blocked Colorado’s ban on abortion pill reversal following a request from Catholic nurses who run the non-profit organization Bella Health and Wellness. On Saturday, U.S. District Court Judge Daniel Domenico temporarily stopped Colorado’s law from taking effect after previously placing the law on hold in April. The last injunction placed on the law was set to expire on Monday.

Domenico said in an opinion on Saturday that the Colorado law prohibiting the treatment likely violates the U.S. Constitution’s guarantee of religious freedom.

“Colorado is trying to make outlaws of doctors and nurses providing life-saving and compassionate care to women they serve,” said Rebekah Ricketts, counsel at Becket, which is representing the nurses. “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.”

10/23/23: Catholic nurses who founded the non-profit health organization Bella Health and Wellness in Colorado have asked a judge that they be allowed to continue administering abortion pill reversal (APR) — the administration of the hormone progesterone — to women while their legal case against Colorado Senate Bill 190, the law prohibiting the use of APR, continues.

Dede Chisma and Abby Sinnett are a mother-daughter team that created Bella Health in order to ultimately improve the culture by “helping women be whole” along with helping marriages and families. In October of 2021, following a lawsuit by Bella Health against a Colorado law that prohibited the use of abortion pill reversal, a federal judge ruled that Bella Health was exempt from the law because it “burden[ed] their own First Amendment rights.”

The law aimed to prohibit medical professionals from providing APR, which consists of administering progesterone pills or injections after a woman takes the first drug of the two-drug abortion pill regimen, or risk facing $20,000 in fines per violation as well as the potential loss of their medical license. Thanks to Trump-appointed, U.S. District Court Judge Daniel Domenico’s injunction, Bella was able to continue to provide APR as the lawsuit proceeded — but other medical providers who also provided APR in Colorado could not.

The law has not yet taken effect and the hold placed by Domenico has since expired, said Catholic News Agency. The last injunction is set to expire at midnight on Monday. Meanwhile, none of the concerns about Bella Health’s First Amendment rights have been addressed. In addition, the Colorado State Medical Board has since ruled that doctors in the state who provide APR will be operating outside of the “generally accepted standard of practice.” Because of this, Bella Health asked Domenico on Tuesday for a renewed temporary hold on the law while its case continues to move through the courts.

Bella Health’s original lawsuit states that it 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.”

Laura Slavis, an attorney with Becket — the law firm representing Chism and Sinnett — explained, “They’re once again being asked to choose between continuing to exercise their religious practices of offering this life-affirming health care or facing the loss of their licenses, facing other financial penalties, [and] the loss of their malpractice insurance.” She added, “Colorado has no justification for doing this.”

The abortion pill involves two drugs: mifepristone and misoprostol. Mifepristone deprives the developing child of nutrients by blocking the naturally occurring pregnancy hormone progesterone. Misoprostol causes the contractions that expel the baby. After a woman takes mifepristone, she can undergo an abortion pill reversal attempt, in which a doctor administers progesterone to counteract the effects of mifepristone. The protocol has an effectiveness rate of 64% to 68%, according to a 2018 peer-reviewed study, and it is backed by the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Progesterone has been used for decades to help women who have suffered repeat miscarriages to carry to term.

During the hearing on Tuesday, Slavis said the attorneys defending the law prohibiting APR could not identify a single woman who has been harmed by the protocol. A preliminary decision is expected from Domenico by Monday and his official decision is expected a few days after.

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