DENVER — Life has a way of taking unexpected turns.
For Lauren Miller, life was filled with pure joy when she and her husband found out they were pregnant with twins. She already has a toddler and was looking forward to expanding her family.
The next moment, Miller’s life was filled with uncertainty and fear. At her 12-week ultrasound, the doctor spotted a large fluid mass developing in one of the fetuses where the brain should be developing.
“It's very strange trying to just get answers to basic questions in Texas right now, because of this pervasive element of fear and a prosecution because of how confusing our laws are,” Miller said.
Week by week, the news got worse as one developmental problem after another was discovered in the fetus. Eventually, doctors were able to diagnose the fetus with Trisomy 18, a rare disorder where babies are born with three copies of chromosome 18 instead of two.
Only 10% of babies born with the defect may survive their first birthday, depending on the severity of the Trisomy 18 condition.
Miller, who lives in Dallas, was eventually told that while one twin was viable, the other was not, putting both her and her other fetus’ health at risk. It’s a conversation Miller described as both coded and uncomfortable because abortions are banned for the most part in Texas.
“One of the doctors had finally just, bluntly even, told me that he couldn't help me and said I needed to go out of state,” she said. “It was heartbreaking because I'm far enough along that I'm picking out paint colors for the nursery.”
Despite the unimaginable predicament, Miller says she felt lucky. She had both the means and the time to take a trip to Colorado for an abortion procedure. Still, she was afraid that when she returned, she or the health care providers who helped her could be criminally or civilly prosecuted.
“We were scared at first to even use credit cards, just because of the tracing of that. We were debating driving,” Miller said. “I'll never forget when we lifted off, it was it was a nighttime flight. So it literally felt like we were fleeing in the night to go to Colorado to just access the health care.”
When she arrived, Miller says the health care experience was completely different. She was not only encouraged to speak with the doctors openly about her options, but says she felt safe.
When she returned home, Miller and her husband decided not to tell their family or friends about their decision for months, afraid that someone might turn them in to Texas authorities.
2022 data shows spike in out-of-state residents seeking abortions in Colorado
It’s the type of fear she wants to help others avoid. So this month, Miller and four others filed a lawsuit against Texas for not being able to access abortion services.
Miller testified on Wednesday in favor of a Colorado bill to offer protections for patients who come to Colorado seeking an abortion and for health care providers who offer the service. Senate Bill 23-188 prohibits courts from issuing a subpoena in connection with legal proceedings in another state for Colorado-protected health care services.
It also prohibits police from arresting someone who seeks or provides this type of care, prohibits search warrants from being issued, bans judges from issuing a summons for a grand jury investigation in another state over these services and blocks the Colorado governor from turning someone over to another state for these services unless the person received the care in that state.
Miller and supporters of the bill say the laws in other states were written so vaguely and broadly that it’s unclear exactly who they apply to.
“We don't know the limits of this bounty system that we've got in Texas. And what does that mean for people in Colorado? If you're in Colorado and drive Uber, if you're a front desk hotel clerk and airline employee, you know, every person who helped us along the way to the doctor's office in Denver, what does that mean for them? And it's not fair,” Miller said.
They hope Colorado’s bill will offer clarity to the protections offered to those who come here.
In a little over a week, Miller is due to deliver her second son, though she admits she hasn’t had time to process all of the emotions that come with the growth of her family but also the loss of what could have been.
“From all the additional stress and the horrible experience we faced around trying to get an abortion, I haven't really properly had a chance to grieve the son we lost,” she said.
The bill passed its first committee test Wednesday.