Woman Who Miscarried Now Faces Charges Of Abusing a Corpse

An Ohio grand jury is currently contemplating whether a woman should be indicted for miscarrying a fetus that was nonviable at her house.

The 34-year-old woman, Brittany Watts, was arrested back in October after she passed the fetus in her home’s bathroom and then attempted to flush its remains. She has been charged with abuse of a corpse, and many experts are saying that law enforcement used a rare interpretation of Ohio state law to do so.

Since November, the grand jury in Trumbull County has convened to decide the case. They were expected to give a full report this week, but that has now been delayed until its next session, which will be held a couple weeks from now.

Watts has pleaded not guilty to the charges. If she were convicted, she could end up spending one year in jail.

According to official records, Watts miscarried her baby spontaneously. The state hasn’t challenged that fact.

As such, many advocates of reproductive health and even some lawyers have scrutinized the case against her, claiming that there is no basis to charge her and that doing so could deter women who miscarry in the future from getting the medical attention they might need.

Watts was charged one month before voters in Ohio approved having abortion rights enshrined into the state Constitution up until 22 weeks — which is considered the time when a fetus is viable. That vote also gave people the right to care for miscarriages, fertility treatment and contraception.

Last month, Traci Timko, Watts’ lawyer, said her client was being “demonized for something that goes on everyday.”

The judge who was hearing those arguments, Terry Ivanchak at the Warren Municipal Court, ruled that there was probable cause for a grand jury to consider the case. Ivanchak has retired since that hearing.

Watts was admitted to a hospital because she was bleeding on September 19. She was 21 weeks and five days pregnant at the time.

Doctors said her water had broken prematurely and that her cervix was dilated. They detected cardiac activity in the fetus but “recommended she be induced and deliver the fetus despite its nonviable status” because she was at a grave risk of dying, getting sepsis or “complete placental abruption with catastrophic bleeding.”

She waited eight hours in the hospital for an ethics panel to rule on her case, and then left the hospital after.

She went home but then returned the next day to the hospital, though she didn’t get any treatment.

Two days later, on September 22, Watts miscarried at home. She then went back to the hospital to get treatment. The hospital had to notify the Warren City Police Department that the miscarriage happened and “the need to locate the fetus.”

When police found that it was clogged in her bathroom toilet, they took the whole toilet out of her home to the morgue, “where it was broken open” to retrieve it.

Even though the autopsy found the fetus died before delivery happened, Watts was still charged for how she handled the remains.