The case of Brittany Watts, a 33-year-old woman from Warren, Ohio, has ignited a national firestorm over the treatment of pregnant women, particularly those who are Black. The Trumbull County Prosecutor, Dennis Watkins, has stated that he is obligated to present a felony abuse-of-corpse charge against Watts to a grand jury, despite the pressure being brought to bear by the national attention on her case.
Watts’ ordeal began when she miscarried in the restroom of her home on September 22. Just days prior, a doctor had informed her that her fetus had a heartbeat but was nonviable. Distraught and in need of medical care, Watts twice visited Mercy Health-St. Joseph’s Hospital in Warren but left before receiving any assistance. It was only when she returned bleeding and no longer pregnant that a nurse called the police.
When authorities arrived at Watts’ home, they made a horrifying discovery. The toilet was clogged, and wedged in the pipes was the 22-week-old fetus. The police seized the toilet bowl and extracted the fetus, leading to the subsequent charge of abuse of a corpse against Watts. This fifth-degree felony carries a potential sentence of up to a year in jail and a $2,500 fine.
The case has sparked outrage across the nation, with many questioning the treatment of pregnant women, especially in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision overturning federal abortion protections. Advocacy groups, including Ohio Physicians for Reproductive Rights, have called for the charges against Watts to be dropped, arguing that they violate the “spirit and letter” of Ohio’s newly passed reproductive rights amendment.
However, Prosecutor Dennis Watkins maintains that he is duty-bound to follow Ohio law and present the case to a grand jury. He emphasized that it is the grand jury’s role to determine whether Watts should be indicted, and that his office will present the case with fairness and ensure that guilt is decided upon the basis of sufficient evidence.
Watts, who has pleaded not guilty, is being represented by her attorney, who argues that she is being unfairly demonized for something that happens every day. An autopsy conducted on the fetus revealed no recent injuries, indicating that it had died in utero.
As the nation watches, the fate of Brittany Watts hangs in the balance. Will justice prevail, or will the system fail her in a case that has become a symbol of the ongoing struggle for reproductive rights and the treatment of pregnant women? Only time will tell as the grand jury weighs the evidence and makes its decision.