Ohio Woman Cleared of Felony Charge in Miscarriage Case
A grand jury in Ohio has chosen not to indict Brittany Watts, a woman who had miscarried a nonviable fetus at home, putting an end to a highly scrutinized case that had raised concerns among lawyers and reproductive health advocates.
Watts, 34, was arrested in October after passing a fetus in her bathroom and attempting to flush it down the toilet. The police in Trumbull County used an uncommon interpretation of a state law to charge her.
The grand jury, after months of review, decided not to pursue an indictment against Watts. If convicted, she could have faced up to a year in prison.
Traci Timko, Watts’s lawyer, expressed relief and gratitude, stating, “I’m happy Brittany is able to now begin to heal through all of this, and I hope and believe that her story is going to be an impetus for change.”
Prosecutor’s Statement Invalidates the Charge
Dennis Watkins, the Trumbull County prosecutor, released a statement explaining that his office had found no evidence of wrongdoing by Watts and disagreed with the lower court’s application of the law. Watkins cited extensive interviews with witnesses and thorough research as the basis for their conclusion.
The case gained attention when a municipal court judge found probable cause for a grand jury review, leading the prosecutor’s office to proceed. However, the subsequent investigation revealed no violation of the law by Watts.
Watts had sought medical help at St. Joseph Warren Hospital in Youngstown, Ohio, when she experienced vaginal bleeding at just over 21 weeks of pregnancy. Doctors determined that the fetus was nonviable and her water had broken prematurely.
Misguided Charge Based on a Misinterpretation
Following her miscarriage, Watts passed the remains at home and returned to the hospital. A nurse at the hospital reported the incident to the police, who discovered the fetus clogged in the toilet and took it to the morgue.
A subsequent autopsy confirmed that the fetus had died in utero due to complications of premature rupturing of the membranes. Despite this, Watts was charged with abuse of a corpse as a felony.
Legal experts, such as Wendy A. Bach from the University of Tennessee, believe that such prosecutions are part of a concerning trend to criminalize reproductive health. They argue that Watts’s treatment highlights the need for proper medical care rather than punishment.
A Victory for Reproductive Rights Advocates
Historically, punitive actions related to reproductive health have disproportionately affected marginalized communities, particularly women of color. However, Ohio voters recently approved a state constitutional amendment affirming the right to abortion until fetal viability, which is at 22 weeks.
During the legal proceedings, an assistant prosecutor argued that the charge against Watts was not about how or when the fetus died, but rather the disposal of the remains. However, this argument failed to resonate with those who understand the realities of miscarriage.
Ms. Timko, Watts’s lawyer, described the emotional toll the case had taken on her client and expressed gratitude for the overwhelming support Watts received from people across the country.
The decision by the grand jury in Ohio not to indict Brittany Watts on a felony charge related to her miscarriage brings relief and hope for advocates of reproductive rights. This case underscores the critical need for compassionate and understanding healthcare for women experiencing pregnancy loss.
By rejecting a misguided charge, the grand jury has contributed to the ongoing fight against the criminalization of reproductive health, particularly for marginalized communities. This victory is a step forward in ensuring that individuals receive the care and support they need during difficult times.
Read More of this Story at www.nytimes.com – 2024-01-11 23:42:03
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