Colorado’s new pro-abortion laws will cost ‘countless children’s lives,’ pro-life leaders warn

Gov Polis Colorado Gov. Jared Polis introduces U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris, not pictured, at the start of a climate crisis event at the Arvada Center for Performing Arts in Arvada, Colorado, on March 6, 2023. | Jason Connolly/AFP via Getty Images

Catholic and pro-life leaders lamented Colorado Gov. Jared Polis’ final approval of three strongly pro-abortion bills on Friday, objecting that they prioritize abortion “at the cost of countless children’s lives.”

The new laws ban abortion-pill reversal treatments, greatly restrict advertising for pro-life pregnancy resource centers, require insurance providers to pay for abortions, and remove parental notification for minors seeking an abortion, among other measures.

Bella Health and Wellness, a pro-life, Catholic-founded health care clinic that provides abortion pill reversal, quickly filed a legal challenge to the abortion pill reversal ban, with the backing of the religious liberty legal group Becket. If it continues to offer and advertise progesterone for abortion pill reversal, the clinic faces up to $20,000 in fines per violation and the loss of providers’ medical licenses.

The new laws also forbid medical facilities and insurance provider networks from terminating or excluding medical professionals who perform abortions or provide “gender-affirming care,” with some exceptions for religious organizations opposed to these practices.

In an April 14 letter, the Catholic bishops of Colorado said there was “a strong outcry” against the three bills. They said the laws are out of step with the 63% of Coloradans who do not support unrestricted abortion. Most residents do not want to pay for abortion in their health insurance and do not want to penalize health care providers who object to abortion and “gender-affirming care.”

Democratic Gov. Polis and the “near-veto-proof majority of pro-abortion lawmakers” in the Legislature, the bishops said, are “telling Coloradans that they prioritize abortion over life-affirming reproductive health care decisions for women, at the expense of the mother’s health and, even more grave, at the cost of countless children’s lives.”

They lamented that some Catholic legislators had voted for the bills and asked them to refrain from holy Communion until they show public repentance and receive absolution in sacramental confession.

“The tears of God fell on Denver today as our governor signed three extreme abortion bills into law, choosing a culture of death over a culture of life,” Archbishop Samuel Aquila of Denver said on Twitter April 14. “Let us continue to pray for the conversion of hearts and minds and the courage to defend the dignity of life!”

The provision banning abortion pill reversal (APR), according to the bishops, “even removes a woman’s ability to choose life for her unborn child.”

“APR is simply a large dose of natural progesterone, the ‘pro-gestation’ hormone, prescribed by a licensed medical provider to outcompete the life-ending effects of chemically induced abortion for the baby,” the bishops said. “Babies who have been born to mothers who have taken progesterone during pregnancy are healthy and strong. Colorado is the first state to eliminate this choice of life for women.”

The abortion pill is a two-dose regimen of mifepristone followed by misoprostol. The pill works to kill an unborn baby by cutting off the nutrients necessary for it to continue developing. A second drug, misoprostol, taken days after the first, induces cramping and contractions to expel the baby’s body from the womb.

Though the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had only approved the abortion pill until 10 weeks into pregnancy, many clinics and providers offer the drug up to 12 or 13 weeks into pregnancy, the New York Times reported. The FDA approval of the abortion pill is currently facing scrutiny in the federal courts and approved use has been rolled back to seven weeks into pregnancy.

Critics of the abortion pill reversal regimen said it lacks FDA approval and robust scientific support. The pro-abortion American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, in a 2015 position paper, said that pregnancy will continue in 30%-50% of women who take mifepristone alone and do not take the follow-up drug misoprostol.

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

“Even though Bella can offer the hormone to women in any other circumstance, including natural miscarriage, it is barred [under the new law] from doing so if the purpose is to reverse the effects of the abortion pill,” Bella said in an April 14 statement. “This forces pro-life clinics to choose between their deeply held religious beliefs and their ability to operate as health care ministries in the state.”

Dede Chism, a nurse practitioner and co-founder and CEO at Bella Health and Wellness, said in the statement that the founders of Bella opened the medical clinic “because of our belief that life is a precious gift from God, worthy of protection at all stages.”

“When a woman seeks our help to reverse the effects of the abortion pill, we have a religious obligation to offer every available option for her and her child,” Chism said.

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The Colorado bishops praised the legal challenge, saying it “affirms the First Amendment rights of pregnancy centers and the ability of medical providers to freely prescribe APR treatment as a life-affirming option for women in Colorado.”

The other two bills have “serious First Amendment violations,” the bishops said. As examples, they noted the end to notification for parents of a minor seeking abortion, compelled inclusion of abortion costs in insurance premiums, compelling medical centers to include those who perform abortions or provide “gender-affirming” care, and forcing private employers to pay for abortion and “gender-affirming” care in their health care plans.

“We will also support filings against these unjust laws,” the bishops said.

A provision targeting pro-life pregnancy centers characterizes them as “anti-abortion centers.” It bars “false advertising relating to the provision of abortion or emergency contraceptive services, or referrals for those services,” though it is not clear what constitutes “false advertising.”

Crisis pregnancy centers offer pregnant women and families free resources and baby materials. Some provide health care or referrals. The legislation described them as “the ground-level presence of a well-coordinated anti-choice movement.” Abortion advocates have long opposed the centers and contend that some present themselves as abortion providers to attract women considering abortion.

Advocates against the bills included Pro-Life Colorado, a coalition of over 36 pro-life organizations. More than 60 representatives of pregnancy resource centers advocated against the bills.

In the wake of the new laws, the state’s bishops reaffirmed their resolve.

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“We, the Catholic bishops of Colorado, and our three dioceses are committed to do our part to advocate for the sanctity of life, freedom of conscience and expression, and will continue to assist pregnant mothers and families experiencing unexpected pregnancies through the ongoing expansion of medical services, housing, counseling, and resources, both during their pregnancy and after,” they said.

Colorado lawmakers had passed strong pro-abortion legislation in the 2022 Reproductive Health Equity Act, which declared abortion a “fundamental right” and stripped all rights from the unborn child from the point of conception, saying a fertilized egg, embryo, or fetus has “no independent or derivative rights” under state law.

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