Catholic nurses sue Colorado to continue abortion-reversal ministry — By: Catholic News Agency

Health care professionals at the Colorado-based, pro-life Bella Health and Wellness healthcare clinic / Credit: Bella Health and Wellness

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Oct 19, 2023 / 15:23 pm (CNA).

A mother-daughter duo of Catholic nurses and founders of a nonprofit health organization are suing the state of Colorado to be allowed to continue their ministry helping women reverse unwanted chemical abortions.

Dede Chism and Abby Sinnett, who run the Denver-area Bella Health and Wellness, are arguing that a new Colorado law banning abortion pill reversal impedes the First Amendment rights of their clients and their medical practice.

In a Tuesday hearing, Chism and Sinnett, represented by the religious liberty law firm Becket, asked federal district judge Daniel Domenico for a renewed temporary hold on the law while their case works its way through the court.

Their legal complaint posits that Bella and its providers “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.” 

Laura Slavis, an attorney with Becket, told CNA that Chism and Sinnett are merely trying to practice health in accord with their Catholic faith.

Passed by the state Legislature in April, the law banning abortion pill reversal has yet to take effect due to multiple holds, the last of which is set to expire at midnight on Monday.

Domenico, a Trump appointee, granted Bella a narrow temporary injunction against the law in April because it “burden[ed] their own First Amendment rights.”

That hold has since expired. Slavis said none of the free exercise and free speech issues have been addressed.

Chism and Sinnett are “just as much at risk as they were the day this law was first passed,” Slavis told CNA.  

“They’re once again being asked to choose between continuing to exercise their religious practice of offering this as life-affirming health care or facing the loss of their licenses, facing other financial penalties, [and] the loss of their malpractice insurance,” Slavis said.

“Colorado has no justification for doing this,” she went on, adding that “real lives are at stake.”

A chemical abortion involves a two-pill regimen. The first pill, called mifepristone, cuts off the hormone progesterone, which is necessary for an unborn baby to survive. The second pill, misoprostol, is taken up to 48 hours later to expel the dead baby’s body.

Progesterone, a naturally occurring hormone, can be used to reverse the effects of mifepristone if taken soon after. As part of their medical practice, Chism and Sinnett have for years been helping women reverse the effects of the abortion pill by administering progesterone.

According to Slavis, they have successfully helped “dozens” of women reverse their chemical abortions and deliver healthy babies.

In April, the Colorado Legislature passed a law banning abortion pill reversal in the state, labeling it “deceptive” and “unprofessional conduct.”

The law means providers such as Bella who continue to offer and advertise progesterone for abortion pill reversal would face up to $20,000 in fines per violation and the loss of providers’ medical licenses.

Slavis said that Bella currently has three women “who are expected to give birth by the end of the year” thanks to being administered progesterone.

“Bella has seen success in this and has every reason to believe, supported by the science, that what they’re doing is really saving lives and really helping these women who have changed their mind in the midst of an abortifacient process,” Slavis said.

The reversal regimen has the backing of the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists, which cites drug development literature and the routine safe use of progesterone in care for pregnant women and in-vitro fertilization treatment.

According to Slavis, attorneys defending the law on Tuesday could not identify any women who have been harmed by the practice of abortion pill reversal.

“The judge asked really pointed questions to the government,” she said, explaining that he asked them to justify why they were “singling out” this use of progesterone instead of any other uses. Slavis said that the state’s attorneys could not give a reason.

A win for Bella in this case, Slavis said, would be “extremely beneficial to faith-based organizations across the country” and would signal to states that they “can’t just target one form of conduct which is religiously motivated and leave all other comparable conduct unregulated.”

In a joint Tuesday statement, Chism and Sinnett said: “We founded Bella because we believe that the miracle of life is worth protecting at every stage and in every circumstance. Under our care, mothers who choose life have access to a safe treatment that increases the chances they will give birth to healthy babies.” 

The nurses “pray that we will be able to continue this life-saving ministry to women who come to us in need of help.” 

Slavis said that the judge indicated he will issue a preliminary decision by Monday and that she expects his decision will come in the next few days. 

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