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Judge urged to block Colorado ban on medication abortion reversal

Colorado argued it's too soon for religious pregnancy clinics to sue to block a new law that hasn't taken effect yet.

DENVER (CN) — A Catholic health care clinic asked a federal judge on Monday to block enforcement of a Colorado law considering it a deceptive trade practice to prescribe drugs to counteract a medication abortion.

Bella Heath and Wellness, a faith-based medical clinic with three Denver-area locations, sued the state attorney general and medical board on April 14 shortly after Democratic Gov. Jared Polis signed SB23-190, “Deceptive Trade Practice Pregnancy-Related Service.” The new law makes it a deceptive trade practice for medical professionals to offer abortion reversal medication unless the state medical board finds the practice meets acceptable standards.

The Colorado Attorney General's Office said it will not enforce the law until the state medical board creates rules addressing the issue, which must occur by October. But attorneys representing Bella and members of its staff pressed U.S. District Judge Daniel D. Domenico to hold the state to its word with a formal preliminary injunction.

“If there is a disavowal, I would like to see it memorialized by the court,” said Becket Fund for Religious Liberty attorney Mark Rienzi. “What my client doesn’t want is to get to September or October and get penalized for saving some baby’s life in April.”

Two drugs are typically used in a medication abortion — one to thin the uterine lining and one to drive contractions. Progesterone, a medication that thickens the uterine lining and eases contractions, can be prescribed to counteract the uterine-thinning effects of mifepristone before contraction-inducing misoprostol is taken.

Progesterone can also be prescribed to women at risk of miscarriage.

Dr. Denise Chism established Bella Health and Wellness in 2014 after taking a mission trip to the Andes in Peru. She considers advertising and offering “abortion reversals” an important part of her practice.

“Bella’s hope, our prayer is that we can reach people in their brokenness. We want them whole body, mind and soul, when we give them care, we are going to take their time to hear their story and hear their needs,” Chism testified..

Chism worries the law unfairly targets faith-based clinics like Bella that do not offer abortion, contraception or sterilization.

On behalf of the state, Senior Assistant Attorney General Michael Kotlarczyk said an injunction is unnecessary since the state has no intention of prosecuting clinics offering medication to counteract an abortion unless the state medical board finds the practice unacceptable.

“The defendants that have enforcement authority over SB190 disavowed it until the state medical board rulemaking has taken place,” Kotlarczyk said. “The plaintiffs ask you to rush to judgment ahead of that rulemaking. Their question today is a lot broader, it’s ‘We want assurances that no state law is going to be enforced against us’ and that we can engage in this business practice with complete immunity."

A Trump-appointed member of the Federalist Society, Domenico issued a temporary restraining order against the state last week which will expire Saturday. Ahead of the hearing, Domenico disclosed he became friends with several of the named defendants during his legal career and time as a solicitor general for the state.

Domenico did not indicate how he would decide the case but promised a ruling before the temporary retraining order's expiration Saturday.

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Categories / Health, Law, Regional

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