Republican 5th Congressional District candidates Jeff Crank and Dave Williams attended Saturday’s Walk for Life, an annual fundraiser for Life Network, a chain of anti-abortion pregnancy centers in Colorado Springs.

“I’ve been actually a board member for Life Network, and this is probably my seventh or eighth or ninth year coming to this event,” said Crank. “It’s just a way to help raise funds for a great organization that, first of all, is pro-life, but also does a lot in the community to help families — sometimes families, sometimes women, sometimes dads — who find themselves in kind of a tough spot in life. They do all kinds of really awesome stuff, like doing parenting classes and stuff as well. I’ve been a big fan of Life Network for years, and it’s always my way to help show my support.”

Williams had more practical reasons for his attending the event. “This is where the voters are,” he said. “Republican primary [is on June 25].” 

In Colorado’s deep-red El Paso County, which essentially forms the boundaries of the Fifth Congressional District, whichever candidate wins the Republican primary will almost certainly go on to win November’s general election as well.

Crank was recently endorsed by the Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America Candidate Fund, a leading national anti-abortion organization. Williams, who sponsored a personhood bill to charge abortion patients and providers with homicide while serving in the Colorado House, was not impressed with the endorsement.

“He’s definitely the establishment candidate,” said Williams. “If the establishment pro-life group wants to support him, we can’t stop them.”

Crank, who has expressed support for a national abortion ban, said he didn’t have any specific legislation — such as a gestational limit or a complete ban — in mind.

“I have always said that I support exceptions for the life of the mother, rape and incest,” said Crank. “My preference would be that it’s done at the state level, but I have a very deep conviction about life. I’m going to vote when I get the chance, I’m going to vote for life. I don’t know what specific bill might come up or whatever, I don’t want to say, ‘Oh, I’ll vote for this or that,’ because I got to see what the bill is, but generally, I am going to always err on the side of life on those kinds of things.”

Williams questioned Crank’s pro-life stance. “The main difference that we have is that he’s willing to actually fund abortion — in omnibus bills or national defense authorization acts — and he’s not really a true believer,” said Williams, who said if elected he work to prevent abortion patients from crossing state lines to receive care. “I would propose legislation to cut down on abortion tourism. Colorado is becoming a destination state for abortion procedures. We shouldn’t necessarily tolerate that kind of behavior.”

Last year Idaho passed an abortion travel ban, the first of its kind in the U.S., making it illegal to either obtain abortion pills for a minor or to help them leave the state for an abortion without their parents’ knowledge and consent. The law is currently blocked pending a legal challenge. In Texas, counties and municipalities have proposed laws to make it illegal to help a person access an abortion outside the state using local roads and highways. Amarillo recently declined to adopt a voter-approved petition for a travel ban, but four counties in Texas have passed similar measures.

Abortion advocates have noted that anti-abortion legislation is harming women who have to flee states like Texas to obtain medically necessary abortions during life-threatening complications. In Idaho, OB-GYNs are fleeing the state after its 2022 “Defense of Life Act” was allowed to go into effect following the Dobbs decision, which overturned Roe v. Wade.

Crank doesn’t have any reservations about supporting anti-abortion legislation. “I think a lot of that is political,” he said. “There’s a lot of people on the left that try to drive a pretty bad narrative. I can tell you, abortion is really bad for unborn children. I mean, it’s really bad for them. And half of those are women.”

Cobalt, the Colorado nonprofit that helps patients access abortion care, has reported a sixfold increase in annual spending since the Dobbs decision, largely to support Texas residents seeking abortion care in Colorado. According to Rich Bennett, Life Network’s president and CEO, they have also seen an uptick in clients.

“The last six months, our three pregnancy centers have never been busier,” said Bennett. “We actually had 1,900 clients come through the doors of our three pregnancy centers this past year. That might be for an unexpected pregnancy. For many of them, hundreds of them, it’s [that] they’re facing the prospect of an STD, and so [it’s] the opportunity to provide care in that moment and medical treatment in that moment. We actually provided almost 600 STD tests and then treatment to go along with that as well, and certainly that presents an opportunity to help a young person reflect on where they’re at in their lives and the decisions that kind of got them to that moment where they’re fearful that they might have a sexually transmitted disease. At the core of what we get to do is intervene on behalf of young women and men who are facing the biggest decision of their young lives — that’s whether they move forward with the pregnancy that they weren’t expecting. We provided over 1,000 ultrasounds last year, for those women and, when and if they choose to bear it, we’ll come alongside them with our parenting program, where for almost three years we’re pouring into them, with material resources and coaching.”

Bennett, left, and Shania, a graduate of Life Network’s parenting program.

Last year’s Senate Bill 190 targeted anti-abortion pregnancy centers such as Life Network. The bill made it a deceptive trade practice for a center to make any advertisement that indicates that it provides abortions, emergency contraceptives, or referrals for abortions or emergency contraceptives when the center knows or reasonably should have known that it does not provide those specific services. While Life Network is explicitly anti-abortion in its messaging and materials to clients, abortion advocates argue that anti-abortion pregnancy centers often delay and deter patients from accessing abortion care. Senate Bill 190 also made it unprofessional conduct to provide so-called “abortion pill reversal,” which is purported to reverse the effects of the initial dose of a medication abortion.

Democrats and abortion advocates argue that “abortion pill reversal” is not supported by medical science. 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.”

In 2023, Colorado’s medical, nursing and pharmacy state boards each declined to designate abortion pill reversal an accepted medical practice, but stopped short of declaring it unprofessional conduct. The medical board ruled it as outside of “generally accepted standard of practice,” and the nursing and pharmacy boards declined to classify it as either unprofessional or accepted conduct. All three boards decided to review abortion reversal on a case-by-case basis.

The restrictions on abortion pill reversal are currently being challenged in court by The Becket Fund, a Washington, D.C.-based, non-profit law firm, on behalf of Bella Health and Wellness (Bella), a Catholic health care provider.