A grand jury in Ohio on Thursday declined to indict a woman who had miscarried a nonviable fetus at home on a felony charge of abuse of corpse, ending a case that had drawn international scrutiny from lawyers and reproductive health advocates who had argued the charge was baseless and could endanger other patients.
The woman, Brittany Watts, 34, of Warren, Ohio, was arrested in October after passing a fetus in her bathroom and trying to flush the remains down the toilet. Prosecutors in Trumbull County had charged Ms. Watts using an extremely rare interpretation of a state law.
The grand jury returned what is known as a no bill, meaning it chose not to indict. The case had been before a Trumbull County grand jury since November. Ms. Watts had pleaded not guilty.
Had she been indicted and convicted, Ms. Watts could have faced up to a year in prison.
Traci Timko, Ms. Watts’s lawyer, said she was incredibly relieved and “thankful that justice was done.”
“I’m happy Brittany is able to now begin to heal through all of this and I hope and believe that her story is going to be an impetus for change,” she said.
Ms. Timko said that when she called Ms. Watts, she was at first silent and then began to cry.
“It’s just been an emotional roller coaster that she has been on,” Ms. Timko said.
A GoFundMe account raised about $235,000 for Ms. Watts, who is a receptionist at a medical office, Ms. Timko said.
“She is known across the country,” she said. “Three months ago, her circle was her mom, her church and the people she worked with. It’s quite the upheaval.”
Ms. Watts was admitted to the hospital with vaginal bleeding on Sept. 19 when she was just over 21 weeks pregnant, right before the 22-week mark that would have made it a viable pregnancy under Ohio law. Doctors determined her water had broken prematurely and that the fetus was nonviable. After several visits to a hospital that included long wait times, Ms. Timko said, Ms. Watts passed the tissue at home.
The hospital notified the Warren City Police Department about the miscarriage and “the need to locate the fetus,” according to a coroner’s report. The police found the fetus clogged in her bathroom toilet, the report said. The police took the entire toilet out of her home and took it to the morgue to retrieve the fetus.
The autopsy report found that the fetus had died in utero — before delivery — because of complications of premature rupturing of the membranes.
The police charged Ms. Watts on Oct. 5 with abuse of corpse as a felony.
This is a developing story.