Don’t Punish Pregnant Women for Miscarriages

Target: Jon Ossoff, Chair of U.S. Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Human Rights and the Law

Goal: Provide federal framework for clarifying and closing harsh loopholes in fetal personhood laws that unfairly target pregnant women.

An Ohio woman recently faced felony charges after suffering a miscarriage. Brittany Watts had reportedly visited a hospital in the city of Warren several times with complaints of bleeding. She was allegedly diagnosed with conditions that had rendered her 21-week-old fetus non-viable. Eventually, Watts agreed to have her delivery induced at the apparent advice of physicians. But when the professionals reportedly debated performing the procedure, the woman apparently left the hospital and eventually delivered the stillborn fetus at home inside a toilet. When she reported the incident to the hospital, the case was apparently sent to the local police department, who filed abuse of a corpse charges at the recommendation of the city prosecutor’s office. And so the controversy began.

For one, state law is supposed to protect women who experience miscarriages from presumed criminality. And medical reports have since confirmed that the fetus died inside the womb. Some believe physicians may have hesitated to induce labor because at the time, Ohio’s abortion law prohibited the procedure before 22 weeks, and Watts was near that benchmark. And critics also believe personal beliefs may have fueled the decision of hospital personnel to refer the case to the police department and for prosecutors and judges to proceed with the case.

Watts’ case was brought before a grand jury, who refused to indict her on charges that could have led to a one-year prison sentence. Sign the petition below to ensure no more women enduring miscarriages suffer a miscarriage of justice as well.

PETITION LETTER:

Dear Senator Ossoff,

The recent Ohio case of a woman who almost went to prison for abuse of a corpse following a miscarriage highlights the danger many pregnant women still face from inept legalities. So-called fetal personhood laws are becoming even more of an instrument of injustice. Prosecutors in at least 45 states have taken advantage of these laws to charge women who have experienced miscarriages with serious crimes, using reasoning ranging from the woman having taken prescription drugs to the woman going against medical advice: actions that would have been perfectly legal and within her rights if the woman were not pregnant. One woman even received a sentence of six years in prison for not immediately reporting her miscarriage experienced at home.

While well-intentioned, these laws as they stand now are proving to be abusive and misapplied, to the detriment of too many women. Please work to provide clarity on this important issue at the national level.

Sincerely,

[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: Mart Production


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