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Ohio Grand Jury declines to press charges against woman who left her 22-week-old miscarried baby in a toilet

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A grand jury in Ohio has determined that Brittany Watts, 34, who attempted to flush her 22-week-old miscarried fetus down the toilet, will not be prosecuted criminally.

A municipal judge had determined that probable cause existed to bind over the case against Watts after city prosecutors stated that she miscarried, clogging the toilet and removing some of its contents to an outdoor trash area, and then left the house, leaving the 22-week-old fetus lodged in the pipes. Julie Carr Smyth reported this information for the Associated Press. The Trumbull County prosecutor’s office stated that the grand jurors declined to return an indictment for abuse of a corpse. An autopsy determined that the infant died in utero and identified no recent injuries.

Those in favor of abortion sought to portray the case as an attempt by a pro-life state to prosecute a woman for having a miscarriage. Veteran pro-abortion journalist Jill Filipovic asserted that Watts was “being prosecuted for having a miscarriage.” Furthermore, she presented the case as a chilling preview of what could come, adding more hyperbole and misinformation. The miscarriage was criminalized in a multitude of ways.

Tierin-Rose Mandelburg of Newsbusters made a crucial distinction. “Miscarriages are defined as the spontaneous demise of a fetus in the uterus,” she wrote. “Abortions are instances where a fetus’s life is intentionally terminated while still in the uterus.” It is a fallacy to suggest that any pro-life legislation would prevent a woman who miscarries from receiving appropriate medical care.

“Watts was in trouble because she attempted to flush her 22-week-old infant’s remains down the toilet, not because she had a miscarriage,” she stated.

According to Smyth

Watts had visited Mercy Health-St. Joseph’s Hospital, a Catholic facility in working-class Warren, about 60 miles (100 kilometers) southeast of Cleveland, twice in the days leading up to her miscarriage. Her doctor had told her she was carrying a nonviable fetus and to have her labor induced or risk “significant risk” of death, according to records of her case.

Due to delays and other complications, her attorney said, she left each time without being treated. After she miscarried, she tried to go to a hair appointment, but friends sent her to the hospital. A nurse called 911 to report a previously pregnant patient had returned reporting “the baby’s in her backyard in a bucket.”

That call launched a police investigation that led to the eventual charge against Watts.

Warren Assistant Prosecutor Lewis Guarnieri told Municipal Court Judge Terry Ivanchak the issue wasn’t “how the child died, when the child died” but “the fact the baby was put into a toilet, was large enough to clog up the toilet, left in the toilet, and she went on (with) her day.”

In her argument, Traci Timko, the lawyer representing Watts, highlighted the ambiguity of Ohio’s “abuse-of-corpse statute,” which lacks clear definitions, including the meaning of “human corpse” and the parameters of “outrage” to “reasonable” family and community sensibilities. This information was reported by Smyth.


Chelsea Garcia is a political writer with a special interest in international relations and social issues. Events surrounding the war in Ukraine and the war in Israel are a major focus for political journalists. But as a former local reporter, she is also interested in national politics.

Chelsea Garcia studied media, communication and political science in Texas, USA, and learned the journalistic trade during an internship at a daily newspaper. In addition to her political writing, she is pursuing a master's degree in multimedia and writing at Texas.

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