Colorado wont enforce “abortion pill reversal” ban until late October

Colorado’s ban on a controversial abortion-reversal treatment won’t take effect until late October or later under a decision this week to delay enforcement of new state medical rules.

The Colorado Medical Board cited a pending lawsuit by a Catholic clinic challenging the state’s new ban on the treatment when it voted Wednesday to push back enforcement of its rules until at least Oct. 23. The board’s rules had taken effect in mid-August following their adoption, and two other professional boards are still considering related rules.

Lawmakers earlier this year banned clinics from providing the hormone progesterone to patients who want to keep their pregnancies after previously taking medication to induce abortions — a practice that prominent medical groups, including the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, say has no scientific basis.

Senate Bill 23-190 prohibits the use of “deceptive advertising” by crisis pregnancy centers and designates the offering of “abortion-reversal medication” as unprofessional conduct. The legislation was part of a package of reproductive health and gender-affirming care bills that lawmakers passed in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in 2022 overruling the landmark Roe v. Wade decision, which had recognized a right to abortion.

The new Colorado law states that providing the reversal treatment is considered engaging in unprofessional conduct, subject to discipline. That will hold unless three professional licensing entities — the medical board and the state boards of nursing and pharmacy — all decide, by Oct. 1, that they consider the treatment a generally accepted standard of practice.

The state’s nursing and pharmacy boards have not yet finalized their rules and are scheduled to meet separately later this month.

But because the medical board already has adopted rules that do not consider the reversal treatment a generally accepted practice, it’s now impossible for the three boards to reach a consensus in its favor.

After Gov. Jared Polis signed the bill into law in April, the Englewood health care clinic Bella Health and Wellness sued the state, asking to be exempted. The clinic alleged a violation of its First Amendment rights and religious freedoms.

Attorneys for the clinic also argued that immediate enforcement of the ban would harm ongoing patient care because the clinic provides progesterone to patients who want to keep their pregnancies after taking abortion-inducing drugs.

A judge granted the clinic a temporary exemption, but soon after the state announced plans to suspend enforcement pending the three medical boards’ rulemaking processes.

Late last week, in a joint status report in U.S. District Court for Colorado, Bella Health and Wellness agreed with state lawyers not to pursue any legal action before all three boards have adopted their rules — so long as enforcement is paused until Oct. 23. That is the enforcement date the medical board approved Wednesday.

According to the court filing, Bella Health and Wellness plans to file an amended legal complaint in mid-September and has asked for a ruling on a preliminary injunction, which would pause enforcement of the ban until the case is resolved, by the same late-October date.

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