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In Another Post-Roe Peril, Black Woman Charged After Miscarriage

Ohio was in the throes of a bitter debate over abortion rights this fall when Brittany Watts, 21 weeks and 5 days pregnant, began passing thick blood clots. Watts, 33, who had not shared the news of her pregnancy even with her family, made her first prenatal visit to a doctor’s office behind Mercy Health-St. Joseph’s Hospital in Warren, a working-class city 60 miles southeast of Cleveland, the Associated Press reports. The doctor said that, while a fetal heartbeat was still present, Watts’ water had broken prematurely and the fetus she was carrying would not survive. He advised heading to the hospital to have her labor induced, so she could have what amounted to an abortion to deliver the nonviable fetus. Otherwise, she would face “significant risk” of death.


What followed was a harrowing three days entailing multiple trips to the hospital, Watts miscarrying into, and then flushing and plunging, a toilet at her home; a police investigation and Watts, who is Black, being charged with abuse of a corpse. That’s a fifth-degree felony punishable by up to a year in prison and a $2,500 fine. Her case was sent last month to a grand jury. It has touched off a national firestorm over the treatment of pregnant women, and especially Black women, in the aftermath of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision that overturned Roe v. Wade. Civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump elevated Watts’ plight in a post to X, Twitter, and supporters have donated more than $100,000 through GoFundMe for her legal defense, medical bills and trauma counseling.




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A daily report co-sponsored by Arizona State University, Criminal Justice Journalists, and the National Criminal Justice Association

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