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Federal judge declines to expand prohibition of abortion pill reversal law to rest of Colorado

A federal judge lifted a temporary order on Friday that had shielded a Catholic anti-abortion clinic in Colorado from being subject to a new law that bans the so-called abortion pill reversal treatment. U.S. District Court Judge Daniel Domenico said that Colorado’s promise to not start enforcing the law until the state’s three medical boards weigh in on whether the treatment is a “generally accepted standard of practice” was enough to lift the prohibition. The boards won’t make a decision until at least September, meaning abortion pill reversal treatment won’t be hindered in Colorado for at least three more months. Senate Bill 190, which outlaws abortion pill reversal until at least October 1, was signed into law by Governor Jared Polis earlier this month.

Domenico also declined a request by Bella Health and Wellness, the anti-abortion clinic that filed a lawsuit challenging the law on First Amendment grounds, to expand the prohibition to the rest of the state pending the resolution of its lawsuit. The judge wrote, “This decision is based on the defendants’ having made it clear to the Court that the plaintiffs’ current and planned activities do not subject them to the threat of enforcement in the imminent future. Should that change, the plaintiffs can bring a new motion.”

The controversial and contested abortion pill reversal treatment involves the use of progesterone to try to reverse abortions induced by another drug, mifepristone, which is taken as a pill in early pregnancy. Some states require abortion providers to tell their patients that they can reverse an abortion, but the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says claims about abortion reversal treatments “are not based in science” and that reversal procedures are unproven and unethical. Anti-abortion groups say the practice is safe.

Colorado is the first state in the nation to try to ban abortion pill reversal. Lawyers for Bella Health and Wellness celebrated the outcome on Friday, with attorney Rebekah Ricketts saying, “Now that the state has promised under oath to act as if the law does not exist, women in Colorado will not be forced to undergo abortions they seek to reverse.” However, the broader lawsuit challenging Senate Bill 190 will continue to be litigated, and it could be months or even years before it’s resolved.