Grand Jury Drops Bombshell on Woman’s Miscarriage Case!

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In the latest update, a grand jury made a decision on Thursday not to charge an Ohio woman in connection to allegations of mishandling the remains of her miscarried fetus at home. This case had raised concerns among reproductive rights groups and legal experts who argued that there’s a lack of clear guidance on dealing with at-home miscarriages.

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The woman, Brittany Watts, 34, from Warren, who is Black, was arrested in October and pleaded not guilty to the charge of “abuse of a corpse.” With the grand jury choosing not to indict, the case against her has been dropped.

In September of last year, Brittany Watts experienced her water breaking at 21 weeks and five days of pregnancy, with a fetal heartbeat still present. Her doctors at Mercy Health – St. Joseph Warren Hospital recommended induction to prevent a life-threatening infection. Ohio’s laws at that time permitted abortions up to 22 weeks gestation or later if a woman’s life was in danger.

According to the Trumbull County Coroner’s Office, Watts chose to sign herself out of the hospital against medical advice to process the information she received. She returned the next day but left again, a second time, against the doctors’ advice.

The hospital, citing privacy concerns, declined to comment on the situation.

Two days after leaving the hospital, Brittany Watts delivered the fetus at home, over a toilet. When she returned to the hospital, she informed authorities that she believed she had placed the fetal remains in a black bucket after taking them out of the toilet.

The coroner’s report indicated that the fetal remains were discovered wedged inside the toilet bowl. To preserve potential evidence, the bottom part of the toilet was removed and sent to the local morgue for further examination.

Subsequent autopsy results revealed that the baby had experienced a spontaneous miscarriage and had died before being born. No illicit drugs were found. Despite these findings, Watts was arrested two weeks later on charges of “abusing a corpse.”

Assistant prosecutor Lewis Guarnieri advocated for the case to proceed, a decision that was concurred with by Warren Municipal Court Judge Terry Ivanchak.

Judge Terry Ivanchak referred the case to a grand jury, asserting “probable cause” of a crime, but he has since retired. If the case had proceeded to trial, Judge Andrew Logan would have presided over it. However, local police and the city attorney of Warren, responsible for filing charges against Brittany Watts, have not responded to requests for comment.

Dennis Watkins, the Trumbull County prosecutor who provided guidance to the grand jury, stated that his office believed Watts “did not violate the Ohio Criminal Statue of Abuse of a Corpse as alleged in the complaint.” Expressing disagreement with the lower court’s interpretation of the law, Watkins emphasized this in a statement.

It’s worth noting that the charge against Watts occurred before Ohio voters approved an amendment in the November 2023 election, securing abortion rights in the state’s constitution. This ballot measure thwarted an earlier attempt by Republican lawmakers in Ohio to implement a nearly total abortion ban after six weeks.

A Bit of Background

Brittany Watts faced a series of challenges when she went to the hospital three times in four days due to vaginal bleeding, as per the report from the Trumbull County Coroner’s Office.

On September 19, during her first visit to St. Joseph’s Hospital, Watts was diagnosed with a premature rupture of membranes and severe oligohydramnios, indicating her water had broken prematurely with very low or no amniotic fluid. Despite a fetal heartbeat, medical staff recommended inducing the nonviable fetus, given that her pregnancy was at 21 weeks and 5 days gestation.

In Ohio, abortions are legally allowed until fetal viability, typically considered around 22 to 24 weeks of pregnancy. However, Watts chose to leave the hospital against medical advice on the same day she was diagnosed.

Returning the next day, September 20, Watts left again against medical advice. She expected induction to deliver her preterm pregnancy but faced ethical considerations from doctors due to her condition. On September 22, she returned to the hospital with vaginal bleeding and a retained placenta after a home delivery. Watts admitted delivering the fetus into her toilet, leading to a police response.

The coroner’s investigation found that Watts had placed the fetus in a black bucket near her garage. The autopsy showed that the baby passed away inside the mom’s belly because there wasn’t enough amniotic fluid, caused by the early breaking of the protective sac around the baby.

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