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Brittany Watts’ Legal Victory: A Catalyst for Reproductive Justice and Black Maternal Health

January 12, 2024

January 12, 2024

Brittany Watts, an Ohio (USA) woman facing criminal charges of ‘abuse of a corpse’ following her miscarriage, has been cleared of any felony charges, according to reports on January 12, 2024.

The grand jury’s decision to dismiss the indictment against Watts in Trumbull County, after two days of deliberation, marks a significant development in reproductive justice. The announcement came just hours before a rally, “We Stand With Brittany!,” where approximately 150 supporters gathered at the Warren County Courthouse Square.

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In expressing her gratitude to the community, Warren, Ohio, where she has deep roots, Watts pledged to continue her fight. Traci Timko, Watts’ attorney, emphasized the unjust “demonization” of her client for a situation that commonly occurs in the privacy of women’s homes. Timko expressed relief at the justice served and acknowledged the solidarity from women who shared their own stories of pregnancy loss.

The charges against Watts originated from a miscarriage at 21 weeks into her pregnancy, leading to a felony charge of abuse of a corpse. Despite facing the possibility of a year in prison and a $2,500 fine, the grand jury’s decision has broader implications for women, particularly Black women, who may face similar situations in certain states.

This case underscores the complexities and legal challenges that women, especially Black women, encounter in states with restrictive abortion laws. The fact that Watts faced criminal charges for actions related to her miscarriage highlights the potential legal threats women may face merely for experiencing pregnancy loss.

Traci Timko’s statement draws attention to the unfair treatment of a woman with no criminal record and emphasizes the widespread nature of such experiences. The case, occurring in a post-Roe vs. Wade landscape, becomes emblematic of the broader conversation surrounding reproductive rights, showcasing the consequences of restrictive laws on women’s autonomy over their bodies.

The case’s significance for Black women is further emphasized by In Our Own Voice, a Black reproductive rights group, which released a statement applauding the decision. The statement characterizes Watts’ experience as indicative of how Black women face legal threats simply for existing. It sheds light on the alarming trend of surveillance, arrests, prosecutions, and punishment for pregnancy loss in states with restrictive abortion laws.

Moreover, the case becomes a poignant illustration of the pressing issue of Black maternal mortality. The Centers for Disease Control’s report revealing that Black women are three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related issues than White women highlights systemic factors such as disparities in quality healthcare, underlying health conditions, structural racism, and implicit bias. Watts’ case serves as a stark reminder of the urgent need to address these systemic challenges and protect the reproductive rights and well-being of all women, especially those in vulnerable communities.

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