Colorado abortion reversal ban enforcement on hold

Colorado regulators and prosecuting attorneys will not enforce a newly passed ban on so-called abortion-reversal treatment until rules governing the medication are written, they announced in a court filing Thursday.

It could be several months — possibly stretching into early fall — before the Colorado Medical Board and the state boards of pharmacy and nursing finalize those rules.

The law, SB23-190, states that a health care provider is subject to discipline if they engage in medication abortion reversal, unless those boards find it is a generally accepted standard of practice. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has said abortion medication reversal is not supported by science.

Gov. Jared Polis signed the bill into law last week. It was immediately subject to a lawsuit by Bella Health and Wellness, an Englewood-based Catholic health care clinic. The clinic argued the law violates its First Amendment rights and religious freedoms, and that its immediate enforcement would interrupt ongoing patient care. The Catholic clinic offers progesterone to patients who want to keep their pregnancies after previously taking mifepristone to induce an abortion

A judge on Saturday granted the clinic a 14-day protection against enforcement of the ban while arguments played out in court.

Members of the professional governing boards and Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser wrote in a court filing Thursday that the ban wouldn’t be enforced until the governing boards write the rules required by the legislation. The law sets a deadline of Oct. 1 for the rules. In the filing, the defendants anticipated they would be finished no later than September.

“To avoid initiating premature enforcement actions that may ultimately prove unnecessary, Defendants have determined they will not enforce the new Colorado law against any licensee until after the rulemaking contemplated by the legislation is complete,” Weiser and members of the Colorado Medical Board and Colorado State Board of Nursing wrote in a court filing.

The filing was first reported by the Colorado Sun.

The defendants announced the decision in an effort to undercut the lawsuit. Because the ban won’t be enforced for some months, Bella Health and Wellness faces “no credible threat of enforcement” in the immediate future, the defendants argued in their filing.

U.S. District Court Judge Daniel Domenico scheduled a hearing Monday for the two sides to argue their cases. The clinic is asking for a preliminary injunction, which would give it longer-term protections from enforcement of the law while it is challenged in the courts.

“The attorney general is now running scared because the Colorado legislature decided to shoot first and ask questions later,” Rebekah Ricketts, an attorney representing Bella Health and Wellness, said in a statement. “Our clients and the women they serve need and deserve protection now from this unconstitutional law.”

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