By Dave Andrusko
Late Saturday night, Judge Daniel D. Domenico granted a preliminary injunction sought by Bella Health against the state of Colorado that prevents officials from enforcing a first-of-its-kind law that targets religious healthcare clinics that offer women care in accordance with their faith.
The Colorado law “states that providing the abortion reversal treatment is considered engaging in unprofessional conduct, subject to discipline” Hannah Metzger wrote for Colorado Politics.
Abortion reversal is for those women who after taking the first of two drugs that make up “medication abortion” regime, have a change of heart. Instead of taking the second drug, they take progesterone, which is an updated application of a treatment used since the 1950s to combat miscarriage. As many as 68% of these babies can be saved—and over 4,000 to date have been.
In a press release celebrating the decision, the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty wrote
Bella Health and Wellness v. Weiser is a challenge to a new Colorado law that forbids doctors and nurses to give progesterone to help women who took the first abortion pill, even if they were tricked or forced into taking it. The decision by a federal judge protected Bella and the many women who come to them for medical help to continue their pregnancies. …
Like healthcare clinics across the nation, Bella offers progesterone—a naturally occurring hormone that is essential to the maintenance of a healthy pregnancy—to women at risk of miscarriage. Studies also show that progesterone can help women who have taken the first abortion pill but decide they want to continue their pregnancies. Consistent with its religious mission to uphold the dignity of every life, Bella offers progesterone to these women who seek help to keep their unborn children after taking the first abortion pill.
Bella Health, a Catholic health clinic in Englewood, argued the measure violates its religious freedom and infringes upon its First Amendment rights. Judge Domenico agreed.
“There is no question whether (the law) burdens Bella Health’s free exercise of religion,” Domenico wrote in his ruling. “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.”
“The law at issue here runs afoul of… First Amendment principles,” Domenico wrote in his 45-page decision. “Because it does, the State must come forward with a compelling interest of the highest order to maintain the law. It has not even attempted to do so.”
According to John Ingold of the Colorado Sun
In his decision, Domenico concluded the law violates the Free Exercise Clause for three reasons.
First, he said the law “treats comparable secular activity more favorably than Bella Health’s religious activity,” citing a lack of bans on other off-label uses of progesterone, the primary drug used in the so-called reversals.
Second, he noted that Colorado’s medical, pharmacy and nursing boards decided to review complaints about reversal cases on a case-by-case basis. This precedent means the law shouldn’t be applied broadly, because it allows for “individual exemptions.”
Finally, Domenico referred to transcripts and notes from legislative hearings showing the lawmakers sponsoring the bill allegedly knew the ban would largely affect religious-based institutions providing the medication.
Bella Health sued in April, “on the same day the ban was signed into law,” Ingold wrote. “The injunction means that the state cannot enforce the law while the lawsuit against it proceeds. The lawsuit may not be resolved for months or even years.”
Becket wrote that
Bella Health and Wellness v. Weiser is a challenge to a new Colorado law that forbids doctors and nurses to give progesterone to help women who took the first abortion pill, even if they were tricked or forced into taking it. The decision by a federal judge protected Bella and the many women who come to them for medical help to continue their pregnancies.
“Some of these women have had abortion pills forced on them, and others change their minds,” said Dede Chism and Abby Sinnett, cofounders of Bella Health and Wellness. “We are relieved and overjoyed to continue helping the many women who come to our clinic seeking help.”
“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. “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.”
Colorado has 30 days to appeal the decision to the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals.