Grand Jury Declines to Indict Ohio Woman Who Miscarried at Home

A grand jury in Ohio on Thursday declined to indict a woman who had miscarried a nonviable fetus at home on a felony charge of abuse of a corpse, ending a case that had drawn international scrutiny from lawyers and reproductive health advocates who had argued the charge was baseless and could endanger other patients.

The woman, Brittany Watts, 34, of Warren, Ohio, was arrested in October after passing a fetus in her bathroom and trying to flush the remains down the toilet. Prosecutors in Trumbull County had charged Ms. Watts using an extremely rare interpretation of a state law.

The grand jury returned what is known as a no bill, meaning it chose not to indict. The case had been before a Trumbull County grand jury since November. Ms. Watts had pleaded not guilty. Had she been indicted and convicted, Ms. Watts could have faced up to a year in prison.

NY TIMES

Watts had visited Mercy Health-St. Joseph’s Hospital, a Catholic facility in working-class Warren, about 60 miles southeast of Cleveland, twice in the days leading up to her miscarriage. Her doctor had told her she was carrying a nonviable fetus and to have her labor induced or risk “significant risk” of death, according to records of her case.

Due to delays and other complications, her attorney said, she left each time without being treated. After she miscarried, she tried to go to a hair appointment, but friends sent her to the hospital. A nurse called 911 to report a previously pregnant patient had returned reporting, “the baby’s in her backyard in a bucket.” That call launched a police investigation that led to the eventual charge against Watts.

THE DETROIT NEWS

Watts’ attorney, Traci Timko, had argued that there is no law in the state that requires a woman who has a miscarriage to bury or cremate those remains.

About 10%-20% of known pregnancies end in miscarriage, according to the Cleveland Clinic, although the number is likely higher as many miscarriages occur before people realize they are pregnant. Studies have also shown that Black women are disproportionately criminalized while pregnant. 

NBC

Ms. Watts speaks after the no bill.

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