Abortion reversal ban survives test of Colorado regulatory board rules
Three state boards all declined to designate so-called “abortion reversal treatments” an accepted medical practice, so a new Colorado law banning the process is likely to stand.
“Our intention with this bill has always been about making sure that Coloradans have accurate and unbiased information when making the pregnancy decision that is right for them,” Katherine Riley, policy director at the Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights, said in a statement applauding the outcome.
Legislators passed a law earlier this year that made abortion reversal — the process of taking progesterone after taking the first pill of a medication abortion — unprofessional conduct, effectively outlawing it in Colorado and subjecting providers to professional discipline. The law, Senate Bill 23-190, came with a caveat that if the state’s medical board, nursing board and pharmacy board agreed that abortion reversal is a generally accepted standard of practice by Oct. 1, the procedure would remain legal.
As of now, the three boards have not come to that conclusion. The medical board ruled it as outside of “generally accepted standard of practice” last month, and last week the nursing and pharmacy boards declined to classify it as either unprofessional or accepted conduct. All three boards decided to review abortion reversal on a case-by-case basis.
That means the law will go into effect if the boards don’t reverse their decisions by the Oct. 1 deadline. None of the boards have rulemaking meetings scheduled before then.
The three Boards had an opportunity to right one of these constitutional wrongs — but instead they made it worse.
“Now we can confidently say that anti-abortion centers have lost a major tool they use to mislead patients, thanks to SB23-190 passing its final test and the power of organizing,” Natasha Berwick, policy director at New Era Colorado, a youth civic engagement organization, said in a statement. “A majority of the comments submitted called on the state boards to protect patient safety and consider abortion pill reversal unprofessional conduct. We especially want to thank the Colorado State Medical Board for understanding the assignment and specifically classifying abortion pill reversal as unprofessional conduct.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists maintains that abortion reversal using progesterone is a process “not based in science.”
COLOR and New Era Colorado are backing a 2024 attempt to enshrine the right to abortion in the Colorado Constitution. Two initiatives were filed for review Sept. 20 with the Legislative Council Staff. Another initiative aims to ban abortion in state statute.
Constitutional amendments need a 55% voter approval to be adopted.
A faith-based medical clinic is trying to block the abortion reversal ban. Bella Health and Wellness, a Catholic clinic based in Englewood, filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Denver in April just hours after Gov. Jared Polis signed SB-190 into law.
The judge soon denied the a plaintiff’s motion for a preliminary injunction to stop enforcement of the law, since the office of Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser, the sole defendant in the case, agreed not to enforce the law until the Colorado medical boards determined whether progesterone can be administered as a treatment to reverse medication abortions.
On Friday, following the nursing and pharmacy board decisions, Bella Health again asked the court to grant a preliminary injunction against the state’s enforcement of SB-190. The clinic argues the law is unconstitutional in that it violates its religious and free speech rights.
“The three Boards had an opportunity to right one of these constitutional wrongs — but instead they made it worse,” Bella Health’s motion says. “None of the Boards took the statutory off-ramp of deeming abortion pill reversal a generally accepted standard of practice.”