a pocket observatory abortion primer

I miscarried on a toilet, too! ARREST ME.

a pocket observatory abortion primer
Brittany Watts, in agony. screenshot: WKBN

Brittany Watts, a Black woman in Ohio, is going to trial on a felony abuse of corpse charge because she completed her miscarriage on a toilet. A charge directly tied to Ohio’s anti-abortion movement. She could go to jail for two years if convicted. 

Before she finished the miscarriage on the toilet, Watts had already been to the hospital twice. She knew she was miscarrying. She knew the fetus was not viable. 

From WKBN News

Forensic pathologist Dr. George Sterbenz testified an autopsy found no injury to the fetus and that the unborn fetus had died before passing through the birth canal. He said Watts’ medical records showed she visited the hospital twice before the delivery.

“This fetus was going to be non-viable. It was going to be non-viable because she had premature ruptured membranes — her water had broken early — and the fetus was too young to be delivered,” Sterbenz said.

When she allegedly tried to flush the biomedical waste produced by her miscarriage, her toilet allegedly clogged because the waste got stuck in the pipes leading to the bathroom. 

The prosecutors are acting like this clogged toilet is proof of a crime. Here’s a quote from the prosecutor, courtesy of Texas Metro News,

“The issue isn’t how the child died, when the child died—it’s the fact that the baby was put into a toilet, large enough to clog up a toilet, left in that toilet and she went on [with] her day,” said Warren assistance prosecutor Lewis Guarnieri.

Okay, first of all. She did not “go about her day.” She SHE WENT BACK TO THE HOSPITAL! Where she was diagnosed with “life-threatening hemorrhaging.” A nurse at the hospital called 911 to report Watts FOR BLEEDING DURING A MISCARRIAGE. 

And then the police WENT TO HER HOUSE AND DESTROYED HER TOILET AND TORE PIPES OUT OF HER HOUSE TO COLLECT THE EVIDENCE OF HER….MISCARRIAGE. 

But let’s say she had gone about her day - whatever the fork that means - the prosecutor’s claim would still be bullshit.

Guess what? When you miscarry, no one tells you what to do with the biomedical waste! Which is wild because there is a lot of waste! The fetal tissue, the placenta, the membrane, the amniotic fluid, the blood, all the blood. 

Even when you go to the ER, which Watts did, the healthcare system leaves you alone to bleed it out in your house, your car, your place of employment, your toilet. The system only checks in if you are a Black woman who can be charged with a crime.

And.

Toilets are always getting clogged because of the biomedical waste dropped into them. That’s why every single house has a plunger. Let’s call that biomedical waste that usually requires a plunger what it is, huh? It’s shit. 

If you live in an older house with lethargic water pressure or bad pipes, even a medium-sized shit can require a plunge. So I am wondering…

Is prosecutor Lewis Guarnieri going to tell us how much smaller than one of his huge shits miscarriage waste has to be to avoid criminal charges? 

Do you know who else flushed the biomedical waste from her miscarriage down the toilet? Well, tons of women. Most women who miscarry in our place and time! But also, this woman. I wrote about it years ago. It’s not a delicate piece. But then, miscarriage isn’t a delicate thing.

I finished my miscarriage on a toiletWe don't talk about what happens to women's bodies or in women's bathrooms.

I finished my miscarriage on a toilet

I don’t think people are making enough of the clogged toilet accusation, frankly. Because in the same states where legal risk attends later miscarriages, it is next to impossible to have a very early abortion. Do you see how that will lead to more clogged toilets? And of course, those restrictions aren’t just backed by prosecutors. They’re also reinforced by a profit motive. The biggest investment funds in the world profit off the restriction of reproductive healthcare while pretending to invest in female empowerment. 

I wrote about a particularly egregious example of this last March. 

One of Walgreens Biggest Stockholders Commissioned Fearless Girl

None of us are fearless girls because they keep funding the things built to make us afraid.

One of Walgreens biggest stockholders commissioned Fearless Girl

On Monday, the Texas Supreme Court denied Kate Cox’s petition to have a life-saving abortion. She left the state to receive the medical care she required. A trip not all women in medical crisis can make. 

Kate Cox’s fetus had a fatal genetic disorder, Trisomy 18. 95% of affected pregnancies end in miscarriage or stillbirth. Of the living births, the median lifespan is 5 to 15 days. Because of Cox’s medical history, including previous c-sections, carrying a Trisomy 18 pregnancy put her life and future fertility at significant risk.

Texas has three overlapping abortion bans. But, as NPR reports,

Cox believed she was a good candidate for the narrow exception to the three overlapping bans in Texas. That exception says that abortion is allowed when the mother’s life is threatened or when a pregnancy “poses a serious risk of substantial impairment of a major bodily function.” 

By denying Cox access to healthcare, the Texas Supreme Court has claimed that fertility is not “a major bodily function.” Which, I guess, leaves me just completely stumped here! Because if fertility is not a major bodily function, then what the fuck are we doing with all these abortion bans?

By denying Cox access to healthcare, the Texas Supreme Court has claimed that fertility is not “a major bodily function.” 

Unless abortion bans have absolutely nothing to do with delivering babies and absolutely everything to do with controlling women in the most intimate moments of their lives? WAIT! It’s almost like women have been saying that for a very long time! Including my good friend Gabby in her excellent book, Ejaculate Responsibly: A Whole New Way to Think About Abortion

I wrote about her book, abortion, Christian Nationalism, and what I am calling Semen Supremacy, last year.

Christian Nationalism and Semen Supremacy

If semen supremacy split the world, can semen containment bring it back together?

Christian Nationalism and Semen Supremacy

Remember post-Dobbs, when all those pro-life people assured us in Twitter threads and op-eds that women at risk of losing their fertility and/or lives would be able to access abortion? And that we were fools for saying otherwise? Do you remember? I sure do!

When abortion is not a universal right, there is no legal exception that will protect women who require abortion to survive. 

I remember what they said about me in our online conversations, too! People I’d interacted with for years felt comfortable telling me my pro-abortion ethics meant I was being cavalier about life. Friends, I am many things, many of which are not good. But cavalier about life is not one of them.

Those people were treating me like the gosh damn angel of death because I was adamant about the obvious: When abortion is not a universal right, there is no legal exception that will protect women who require abortion to survive. 

I can’t stop thinking about those threads, those opinion pieces, their smug sureness. I hope their daughters can get abortions when they need them. I’m being serious. That’s a real prayer I pray nightly for all my daughters, including mine. 


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I wrote about my daughter going into septic shock last year and what it could mean for her future if she can’t get an abortion when she needs one. 

In Sepsis and in Health

My daughter, the Dobbs decision and inflammatory systems

In Sepsis and in Health

I didn’t always include access to reproductive healthcare in my prayers. I wasn’t always pro-abortion. For all of my youth, much of my twenties, and even into my early thirties, I was an LDS woman who considered myself pro-life. The pro-life movement considered me pro-choice for two reasons:

  1. The LDS Church taught me that abortion was wrong, outside of three exceptions: rape, incest, and threat to the life of the mother. Those exceptions were not accepted by many in the pro-life movement. I remember anti-abortion protesters calling Mormons baby murderers outside of LDS General Conference.
  2. I thought abortion should be legal, even though I thought it was almost always wrong.

I became pro-abortion before I left the LDS Church. It was a frankly agonizing journey. I walk through bits of the journey in this piece:

Eve & Pandora & Abortion & Me

There is no hope in controlling the lives of women.

Pandora by Odilon Redon, 1914

And now? I’ve grown grateful for abortion. I exist because of an abortion. My daughters exist because of an abortion. I kneel down and say thanks because of an abortion.

I exist because my grandma had an abortion.

The abortion cost her too much. She was right to pay the price.

I exist because my grandma had an abortion
My grandma, the namesake of my oldest

Expressing that gratitude in writing cost me some family members. They told me what they thought of me on the way out. Their words still cut me when I’m sleeping, sometimes. I wake up gasping with pain. 

But…what was the alternative?

I may have left the church I was raised in, but I’ve kept some things taught there. As a child, I sang at church with my eyes closed: Do what is right, let the consequence follow.

And yes, doing what is right also means being honest about how liberal white feminists hurt women’s access to reproductive healthcare. In 2022, I dipped into interrogating that harm. The subject needs to be revisited, as there is much more to say. 

An unedited rant about anti-abortion activists and white feminists

Anti-abortion activists and white feminists feast while insisting scarcity is the norm.

An unedited rant about anti-abortion activists and white feminists

In 2024, I’ll be writing about reproductive healthcare, including abortion, again and again. And again. This subject often hurts me, a kind of tearing hurt, personally and professionally. But writing about reproductive healthcare is a labor of love. And when I think about the hurt as labor pain, it feels productive instead of simply tearing. I am trying to help birth a safer world. Thanks for being here with me and helping me breathe through the pain.