Ohio Woman Faces Prosecution for ‘Abuse of a Corpse’ After Pregnancy Ends in a Miscarriage

A grand jury is set to decide whether an Ohio woman who miscarried a nonviable fetus should face criminal consequences.

Brittany Watts, who was reportedly turned into the police after her September miscarriage, has been charged with the fifth-degree felony of “abuse of a corpse” in Trumbull county, Ohio. Her case has been held up as evidence of how easily pregnant people can find themselves in law enforcement’s crosshairs – especially since the overturning of Roe v Wade and amid tightening abortion restrictions in the US.

If convicted, Watts could spend up to a year behind bars.

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Medical and legal professionals are rejecting the claim by an Ohio district attorney that he lacks the power to drop the case against an Ohio woman charged with abusing a corpse after she miscarried at home, a prosecution that has drawn national attention to the ways women can be criminalized for pregnancy outcomes.

Trumbull County Prosecutor Dennis Watkins (D) released a memo last week saying his office is “duty bound” to follow Ohio law and present the felony abuse of a corpse charge against Brittany Watts, 33, to a grand jury. Watkins’s office said he would not make further comments beyond the memo while the nine-person grand jury continues to investigate; the jury is expected to vote in the coming weeks on whether to indict Watts, who has pleaded not guilty.

Ohio Physicians for Reproductive Rights (OPRR) on Friday wrote a letter responding to Watkins, calling claims that he is obligated to present the case “troubling.”

“While you may believe you are ‘duty bound’ to proceed, you are, in fact, under no legal obligation to do so. As has been widely publicized and as you well know, but choose to ignore, the principle of prosecutorial discretion is well established in both federal and Ohio law,” the letter reads.

***Turnbull County is a 25 mile drive from Poland, Ohio on what some would call, ‘the Northern Route.’

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