A grand jury in Trumbull County, Ohio declined to indict Brittany Watts for felony abuse of a corpse after she miscarried at home.

(Photo: WKBN)

Ohio Woman Won't Be Charged After Miscarriage But 'This Doesn't Undo the Harm'

"Criminalizing a woman for miscarrying at home shouldn't have happened in the first place," said SisterSong. "Our fight for reproductive justice isn't over."

While welcoming that an Ohio woman who miscarried a nonviable fetus last year won't face a felony charge of abuse of a corpse, reproductive rights advocates on Thursday highlighted Brittany Watts' experience as further proof that, as Jane's Due Process put it, "pregnant people still live with the threat of prosecution in the current oppressive environment."

The Trumbull County grand jury's decision to not indict Watts—who miscarried at her Warren home in September at just over 21 weeks pregnant—comes after the 34-year-old's case garnered national attention amid battles over reproductive freedom that have ramped up in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court's June 2022 ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization.

"Let's be clear that this doesn't undo the harm, and the case shouldn't have been pursued in the first place," the group Pregnancy Justice said after the grand jury's decision. "This is why advocacy matters. As long as prosecutors feel obligated to criminalize pregnancy, there will be more cases like Brittany's. When we fight collectively, we can win."

SisterSong similarly declared that "we're relieved Brittany Watts will NOT be criminalized for having a miscarriage. It's wild to us that we even have to say something like that, because... criminalizing a woman for miscarrying at home shouldn't have happened in the first place."

"Our fight for reproductive justice isn't over," the organization stressed. "We will continue to demand a world where we have the autonomy to make decisions about our bodies."

The Afiya Center pointed out that Black women like Watts face "a higher risk of maternal mortality and morbidity."

"Let’s be clear—Brittany Watts should never have been charged with a felony because of her pregnancy outcome," the center said. "The criminalization of Black folk who miscarry sets a dangerous tone and poses a threat to the health of ALL Black pregnant folk."

Watts and her attorney, Traci Timko, also emphasized the need for broader change on Thursday.

"From the start of this case, I have argued that the charge was not supported by Ohio law and that Brittany was being demonized for something that takes place in the privacy of women's homes regularly," Timko said in a statement. "No matter how shocking or disturbing it may sound when presented in a public forum, it is simply the devastating reality of miscarriage.”

"We thank the public for the outpouring of love and support Brittany received. To the countless women who reached out to share their own devastating stories of pregnancy loss—Brittany read every one of them and felt a sisterhood to each of you," the lawyer said. "The emails, letters, calls, donations, and prayers—they all played a part in empowering and getting her through each day. It is our hope and intention to make sure that Brittany's story is an impetus to change."

The Associated Pressreported that while speaking at a pre-planned event on Thursday, Watts said: "I want to thank my community—Warren. Warren, Ohio. I was born here. I was raised here. I graduated high school here, and I'm going to continue to stay here because I have to continue to fight."

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