Federal Judge Sides With Religious Clinic That Wants to Lie to Patients About Abortion Reversal

This ruling temporarily stops a Colorado law meant to ban medical professionals from prescribing a regimen that erroneously claims to reverse abortions.

Federal Judge Sides With Religious Clinic That Wants to Lie to Patients About Abortion Reversal
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On Saturday, a U.S. District Court judge in Colorado blocked a law that would have banned the abortion reversal pill in the state, siding instead with a Catholic medical clinic that wants to keep offering these “pills,” despite the very important fact that they don’t work and aren’t real.

In April, Colorado Democrats passed Senate Bill 23-190, which would have made offering abortion pill reversal “unprofessional conduct” for medical professionals. The state’s pharmacy, nursing, and medical boards could have overruled it, but all agreed that doctors offering abortion reversal are performing activities outside “the generally accepted standard of practice.” Under the law, medical professionals offering such services would come under board investigation and face discipline on a case-by-case basis. The bill was part of a larger package to help expand access to reproductive care in Colorado.

Hours after Gov. Jared Polis signed the bill into law on April 14, Bella Health and Wellness sued the state, saying that the abortion reversal part of the bill violated their First Amendment freedoms.

In the U.S., a medication abortion uses two types of pills, mifepristone and misoprostol. Abortion pill reversal claims a patient can take progesterone pills to stop the effects of mifepristone if they’ve changed their minds and haven’t yet taken the misoprostol.

But, unsurprisingly, abortion pill reversal has almost no research to back it up. One single yet widely-cited case study of six (six!) women in 2012 found that four of the six women who took mifepristone and wanted to stop the abortion process were able to carry pregnancies to term after a progesterone injection. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecology (ACOG) said that there is “not scientific evidence that progesterone resulted in the continuation of those pregnancies” and the continued practice of so-called reversal is “unproven and unethical.”

In 2019, the first randomized clinical study to investigate if abortion pill reversal actually worked had to be stopped prior to completion for safety reasons. Three participants had to be taken to the hospital by ambulance because of severe vaginal bleeding, according to NPR. This has not stopped more than a dozen conservative states (like Arkansas and South Dakota, where abortion is already hard to get) from passing laws forcing doctors to falsely explain to their patients that abortion reversal is possible, therefore sowing more confusion into a patient’s medical choices.

“There is no question whether Section Three burdens Bella Health’s free exercise of religion,” U.S. District Court Judge Daniel D. Domenico wrote in his decision. “It does. 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.” Domenico was appointed to the federal bench by Donald Trump in 2017.

With his ruling, Domenico also blocked another part of the law that could see clinics, like Bella Health, face consumer-protection sanctions for deceptive advertising—like saying they offer emergency contraception or abortion services when they don’t. Or saying abortion pill reversal is a safe, studied, and actual option.

Domenico’s injunction further means that, as litigation proceeds, the law can’t go into effect and anti-abortion clinics like Bella Health can continue operating as normal.

“Some of these women have had abortion pills forced on them, and others change their minds,” the clinic’s co-founders (who are also mother and daughter), Dede Chism and Abby Sinnett, said in a statement—without an ounce of documentation or proof of said patients. The pair added, “We are relieved and overjoyed to continue helping the many women who come to our clinic seeking help.”

The state has 30 days to appeal, per the Colorado Sun.

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