Colorado Democrats have introduced a package of three bills that target the marketing practices of anti-abortion centers and their use of abortion pill reversal, expanding legal protections for patients and providers seeking reproductive and gender-affirming health care, and expanding insurance coverage for those seeking reproductive health care.
“I am joining Sen. Winter on a bill to crack down on what we know as anti-abortion centers, or crisis pregnancy centers, which use manipulation and deception to influence people seeking reproductive health care,” said Sen. Janice Marchman (D-Loveland) during a Thursday press conference. “Anti-abortion centers represent the on-the-ground presence of the national anti-abortion movement, offering dangerous, sometimes life-threatening medical procedures like so-called ‘abortion pill reversals.’ These centers are found all across our state. They outnumber legitimate abortion-providing clinics 51 to 20. Even worse, they often target marginalized communities, sometimes posting Spanish-language billboards in neighborhoods with large immigrant populations or offering free services to low-income communities. Right now, these ideologically-driven centers are free to present themselves as legitimate family planning, reproductive health care clinics. But the reality is, these are fake clinics that lure in vulnerable people seeking care. They peddle biased and inaccurate information about abortion care and contraceptives. And they take advantage of people during some of their most vulnerable moments.”
Last month, Rep. Scott Bottoms (R-CO Springs) introduced legislation to require that abortion patients receive information regarding abortion pill reversal when seeking an abortion, which was voted down in committee. Abortion pill reversal is the controversial practice of giving abortion patients the hormone progesterone to counteract the effects of mifepristone, which is used in medication abortions to block progesterone, terminating the pregnancy. In a medication abortion, patients take mifepristone prior to taking misoprostol, which induces uterine contractions. Abortion pill reversal advocates argue that taking progesterone after taking mifepristone, and not taking misoprostol, can reverse the effects of mifepristone and continue the pregnancy.
According to Maureen West, a board member for the Boulder Pregnancy Resource Center, abortion pill reversal gives abortion patients options in the event that regret their decision, despite a 2016 study showing that the level of uncertainty in abortion decision-making is comparable to or lower than other health decisions.
“This bill is a danger to women because rather than giving a woman a choice it takes a choice away,” said West in an email. “Bill 190 takes the choice away from women who want to change their mind about inducing an abortion. Denying women the choice to change their mind is not in the best interests of women and takes away control over their reproductive rights. If a woman chooses to reverse an abortion early on, in the state of Colorado the woman still has 9 months to decide to abort. So why take this choice away early on? The potential harmful effect of denying a woman a right to change her mind is immeasurable because it is something she may have to live with for the rest of her life. Some women may chose to reverse an abortion and then go on to abort, others may not. Let’s give them the choice to exercise their reproductive right. “
West also denies the claims that anti-abortion centers engage in “deceptive” practices. “Regarding the notion that crisis pregnancy centers are ‘fake clinics,’ there is nothing for crisis pregnancy centers to defend,” she said. “Use of ultrasounds is common practice in OB-GYN offices. Their purpose is to show a woman what is going on inside of her womb. This technology and its purpose does not change whether it be used in an OB-GYN office or the office of a crisis pregnancy center. The real deception is not giving a woman accurate, science-based information and denying her informed consent.”
Medical professionals and reproductive health advocates argue that the practice of abortion pill reversal is unproven and dangerous.
According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, “A 2012 case series reported on six women who took mifepristone and were then administered varying progesterone doses. Four continued their pregnancies. This is not scientific evidence that progesterone resulted in the continuation of those pregnancies. This study was not supervised by an institutional review board (IRB) or an ethical review committee, required to protect human research subjects, raising serious questions regarding the ethics and scientific validity of the results. Case series with no control groups are among the weakest forms of medical evidence. Subsequent case series used to support use of medication abortion reversal have had similar limitations, including no ethics approval, no control group, under-reporting of data, and no reported safety outcomes. A 2020 study intending to evaluate medication abortion reversal in a controlled, IRB-approved setting was ended early due to safety concerns among the participants.”
The safety concerns in the 2020 study involved three women who experienced vaginal hemorrhaging and needed to be taken to the emergency room. One woman needed a blood transfusion.
“We don’t have any evidence that disproves the possibility that abortion reversal exists,” said Mitchell Creinin, the study’s lead researcher, to Vice in 2019. “But I do have evidence that not completing the regimen as it’s designed is dangerous.”
Friday, Rep. Richard Holtorf (R-Akron), the Colorado House Minority Whip, discussed the proposed legislation on KNUS’ Steffan Tubbs Show.
“The Democrats, based on this liberal agenda, the leftist agenda, have introduced a suite of three bills,” he said on air. “They focus on promoting abortion, transgender patient rights, and also they focus on pregnancy centers and not allowing pregnancy centers to promote life, to promote the ultrasound scans, to promote the things that might change somebody from just doing an abortion when they see a beating heart on an ultrasound scan monitor and change their minds and say, ‘Oh my. There’s a baby in there, and it’s my baby.’ These are things that the Democrats can’t stand. … They want to reshape health insurance regulations that basically, they claim, are deceptive advertising for anti-abortion pregnancy centers. Well, that’s because we’re promoting life and they don’t want that. Because they’re the dealers of death for Planned Parenthood and others. I grew up where you talk straight, you walk straight, you shoot straight. And I’m not going to mix words or hold back.”
Will Duffy, president of Colorado Right to Life, said in an email, “Trying to defend abortion is as hopeless as trying to defend slavery. Injustices against other human beings will always be obvious and eventually exposed. Just as the North fought the South, states are now divided on the issue of abortion. And Colorado is trying very hard to cement its place on the wrong side of history, by attempting to facilitate the intentional ending of the lives of the smallest human beings. One day, Colorado will be looked down upon for these actions, not much different than a state who would have advertised that slavery was still fully supported there, in an attempt to get people who still want to commit these atrocities to cross state lines.”
Dusti Gurule, president of Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights (COLOR), said the package of bills is vital to protecting access to reproductive health care. “This year, we’re working alongside our colleagues within our coalition for a collective approach to safe access to predictable, protected health care coverage,” she said during Thursday’s press conference. “We want to address opportunities where we can go even further to protect abortion rights and the rights of patients and providers to tackle misinformation in our communities perpetrated by fake clinics, and to make it more affordable by closing the gap in insurance coverage. These bills were curated together with providers, patients, and community to ensure that we’re addressing the needs most critical to our communities. For decades, COLOR has worked to ensure that the policies we advocate for include reproductive justice values. This package represents another step to ensure that the needs of our communities are being addressed.”
Editor’s Note: This story was updated to include comment from Maureen West.