Bella Health and Wellness v. Weiser
Bella Health and Wellness is a nonprofit Catholic healthcare clinic in Colorado that offers life-affirming, dignified healthcare to men, women, and children from all backgrounds and faith traditions. Consistent with its religious duty to honor the dignity of human life, Bella’s OB-GYN practice offers progesterone—a commonly prescribed, naturally occurring hormone—to pregnant women at risk of miscarriage. However, a Colorado law has made it illegal for religious healthcare clinics like Bella to offer women progesterone for the purpose of treating threatened miscarriages brought on by taking the first abortion pill, a treatment commonly known as abortion pill reversal. Colorado’s ban on abortion pill reversal will force women to continue unwanted abortions.
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Healthcare rooted in faith
Founded by Catholic mother and daughter nurse practitioners Dede Chism and Abby Sinnett, the inspiration for Bella Health and Wellness came from a medical mission trip the pair took in the Andes Mountains of Peru. During that trip, Dede and Abby were moved to believe that everyone has a unique story and that every life deserves the utmost protection. After the trip, Dede and Abby discerned the call to open a life-affirming Catholic medical clinic for women in the Denver metropolitan area. Started as an OB-GYN practice, Bella Health and Wellness has since expanded its work in the Denver area to offer care to men and children as well. Today, Bella serves over 20,000 patients and averages approximately two hundred new patients a month.
Like healthcare clinics across the nation, Bella’s OB-GYN practice often prescribes women progesterone, a naturally occurring hormone that is essential to the maintenance of a healthy pregnancy and to women at risk of miscarriage. In some cases, healthcare professionals have also used progesterone to maintain a pregnancy after a woman has either willingly or unwillingly taken the first pill in the two-step abortion-pill regimen. Consistent with its Catholic belief to protect human life, Bella offers progesterone to women who change their minds after taking the first abortion pill. Bella Health has seen firsthand the hormone successfully reverse the effects of a miscarriage caused by an abortion pill with no negative side effects.
Colorado law targets life-affirming healthcare clinics
In April 2023, Colorado made it illegal for life-affirming healthcare clinics like Bella Health to offer progesterone to women who have willingly or unwillingly taken the abortion pill, or even to advertise for such a service. Even though progesterone has been safely used for years to promote healthy pregnancies, the Colorado Legislature has categorically denied its use for abortion pill reversal. State legislators have labeled its use in this context to be “deceptive” and “unprofessional conduct,” while its use for all other purposes relating to pregnancy—including natural miscarriage—remains legal. If it continues to offer and advertise progesterone for this service, Bella Health faces up to $20,000 per violation and the loss of the medical licenses for its providers. Colorado is targeting life-affirming healthcare clinics like Bella Health simply because they provide every option available for the health of expecting mothers and their unborn children. It is also cruelly forcing women to undergo abortions they seek to avoid.
The law protects Bella Health’s right to serve in accordance with its faith
Bella Health has a religious duty to provide life-affirming medical care to every patient, including women at risk of miscarriage—regardless of whether that risk is posed naturally or by an abortion pill. Colorado cannot single out and attack clinics that provide all-encompassing care to pregnant women who seek out their help. The Supreme Court has consistently held that governments are barred from singling out religiously motivated practices from comparable secular practices simply because of their religious nature.
On April 14, 2023, Becket filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado to stop the State from targeting religious healthcare clinics that offer women care in accordance with their faith. The district court quickly granted emergency relief to Bella Health, protecting them from Colorado’s targeting.
During a hearing on April 24, Colorado government officials committed that the State will not enforce the law—promising instead to act as if the law “never existed” pending rulemaking by the state’s Medical, Nursing and Pharmacy licensing boards. In an April 28 order, the district court held that the State has “agreed to suspend any enforcement that would affect the plaintiffs” and “will not enforce the new Colorado law against any licensee” until three state boards implemented the regulations required by the law.
The last of the three boards issued their regulations on September 21, 2023—doubling down on the legislature’s targeting of faith-based healthcare. The next day, Bella again asked the Court for injunctive relief against the law. The court held a hearing about Bella’s request on October 17. In an issued order on October 21, the district court preliminarily enjoined Colorado from enforcing the law, finding that Colorado likely violated Bella’s free exercise rights in three different ways. As a result of this order, Bella and its providers can continue, consistent with their religious beliefs, to offer healthcare to women who have changed their minds about abortion.
Importance to Religious Liberty:
Individual Freedom: Freedom of conscience is the human right to believe, express beliefs, and act according to the dictates of an individual’s conscience. Becket defends the right of all individuals to live according to their consciences without government coercion.