Ohio woman who miscarried in her toilet is cleared of charges

Brittany Watts, 34, miscarried after visiting the emergency room twice without being able to get treatment

Andrea Blanco
Thursday 11 January 2024 20:53 GMT
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An Ohio grand jury has spared a woman from charges after prosecutors attempted to build a criminal case against her for miscarrying a non-viable pregnancy in her home.

Brittany Watts faced a fifth-degree abuse of a corpse charge after officers with the Warren Police Department found the remains of a foetus stuck in her toilet on 22 September. Ms Watts, 34, had miscarried into the toilet and used a plunger in an attempt to flush the bowl.

She had visited the emergency room twice for her bleeding without being able to get treatment.

Despite testimony from a forensic pathologist who said that an autopsy determined there were no injuries to the foetus and that it had died before passing through the birth canal, a judge ordered in November that the case should go before a grand jury.

Ms Watts’s attorney, Traci Timko, had accused the prosecution of “demonising” her client for something that was entirely out of her control, after Warren sssistant prosecutor Lewis Guarnieri alleged Ms Watts “put the baby into a toilet” and “[went] on with her day”.

On Thursday, a Trumbull County grand jury declined to pursue charges against Ms Watts.

The criminal case against Ms Watts sparked uproar from women’s rights groups, with Ms Timko saying during a hearing that her client’s miscarriage was the result of delayed medical attention as her physicians struggled to figure out how to treat her unviable pregnancy in post-Roe v Wade Ohio.

“This miscarriage took place in her home, on the toilet,” Ms Timko told The Independent in a statement last month. “The grief of her loss, the fear and frustration of her arrest and prosecution, and the roller coaster of emotions resulting from the public spotlight on the most intimate details of what should have been a private affair are challenges Ms Watts continues to face.”

Ms Watts visited the hospital twice before miscarrying. Ms Timko said that her client left the hospital after providers took several hours to give her proper treatment.

A physician had advised Ms Watts that she should have her labour induced, a procedure that amounted to an abortion and would cause her to deliver the foetus but also put her at “significant risk” of death, according to those records obtained by the Associated Press.

At the time of her second visit, Ms Watts had already missed Ohio’s then-21-weeks and six days of pregnancy window to access a legal abortion.

A nurse then called authorities on 22 September, after Ms Watts went to the emergency room no longer pregnant.

Ms Timko said her client described the pregnancy as unintended but not unwanted, and that she likely didn’t want to fish parts of a dead foetus from the bucket of blood, tissue and faeces that she’d scooped from her overflowing toilet after miscarrying.

Local organisations in Warren have arranged a rally in support of Ms Watts at 4pm on Thursday.

The Independent has reached out to Ms Timko for comment.

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