Judge Halts Colorado’s Abortion-Pill Reversal Ban While Catholic Nurses’ Lawsuit Proceeds

A Denver-area Catholic medical clinic can continue to help women reverse unwanted chemical abortions.

Bella Health + Wellness in Englewood, Colorado
Bella Health + Wellness in Englewood, Colorado (photo: Jonah McKeown / CNA)

A Denver-area Catholic medical clinic can continue to help women reverse unwanted chemical abortions despite a state ban after a judge issued a temporary injunction Saturday.

Mother and daughter Dede Chism and Abby Sinnett, Catholic nurse practitioners who run Bella Health and Wellness in Englewood, Colorado, claim in their ongoing federal lawsuit that the state’s law forbidding health care workers from administering a hormone pill that can reverse chemical abortions violates their First Amendment rights.

U.S. District Judge Daniel Domenico, a Trump appointee, granted their request on Oct. 21 to stop enforcement of the state law while the litigation proceeds. Colorado has 30 days to appeal the decision to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals.

A chemical abortion involves taking two pills. The first, mifepristone, prevents the necessary supply of progesterone from reaching the unborn baby. The second, misoprostol, causes the body to expel the baby’s body. If a woman has only taken the first pill, she can take progesterone to reverse its effects.

Chism and Sinnett argue in their complaint that they “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.” 

In his Oct. 21 order, Domenico said Chism and Sinnett “have demonstrated a likelihood of success on the merits of their free-exercise claims” against the state law, known as SB 23-190.

“The state defendants have not contested that SB 23-190 burdens Bella Health’s religious practice. Indeed, it is not up to the state or the court to second-guess the sincerity of Bella Health’s religious motivations or to suggest alternative means of satisfying plaintiffs’ religious calling,” the judge wrote.

Becket, a religious liberty law firm, is representing Chism and Sinnett in the case, Bella Health and Wellness v. Weiser.

“We are relieved and overjoyed to continue helping the many women who come to our clinic seeking help,” the two women said in a joint statement after the judge’s order.

“Bella has helped multiple women continue their pregnancies with progesterone after they had taken the first abortion pill,” Becket attorney Rebekah Ricketts told CNA. “In fact, since this lawsuit began, one abortion pill reversal patient under Bella’s care gave birth to a healthy baby boy. Three other women who received abortion pill reversal treatment under Bella’s care are scheduled to give birth this fall. 

“A win for Bella in this case means that religious health care providers can operate in accordance with their religious convictions and women across the state will not have to undergo unwanted abortions,” Ricketts continued. “That’s important for the preservation of the law, common sense, and basic human decency.”

Bella Health and Wellness not only provides abortion reversal but also offers primary care, gynecology, infertility help, and surgery for women’s health, as well as pediatric care and men’s health care.