NEW YORK -- In recent weeks, the repeated use of pepper spray by police officers against Occupy Wall Street protesters has elicited widespread criticism.
Whether it's September's use of pepper spray against young demonstrators in New York's Union Square or last weekend's forceful confrontation with seated student protesters on the University of California, Davis campus, many critics have questioned the deployment of such tactics against a largely peaceful and nonviolent movement.
Meanwhile, in Seattle, a recent crackdown against Occupy protesters may have claimed its latest victim.
On Monday, The Stranger, a Seattle-based alternative weekly newspaper, reported that one Occupy Seattle protester allegedly suffered a miscarriage. She said police used pepper spray and hit her in the stomach.
"I was standing in the middle of the crowd when the police started moving in," Jennifer Fox, 19, told The Stranger. "I was screaming, 'I am pregnant, I am pregnant. Let me through. I am trying to get out.'"
Fox is reportedly homeless, living in the Occupy Seattle encampment in Westlake Park without a working cellphone.
The Stranger reported that immediately following last week's incident, Fox was rushed to the Harborview Medical Center in downtown Seattle, where Fox said doctors performed a routine ultrasound and didn't discover any cause for alarm.
But on Monday, after experiencing cramping and nausea, The Stranger reported that Fox returned to Harborview Medical Center, where she was later diagnosed as having suffered a miscarriage once the fetus' heartbeat was no longer detected.
As of Tuesday evening, Fox had neither provided medical records to substantiate her claim, nor filed a formal complaint with the Seattle Police Department.
But despite the lack of a formal complaint, a Seattle Police Department spokesman confirmed to HuffPost that police are launching a formal investigation into the matter.
"We are aware of a claim that a pregnant woman who attended the Nov. 15 Occupy Seattle march has been treated for a miscarriage," said the SPD spokesman. "Consistent with standard procedure, the Office of Professional Accountability has initiated an internal investigation to look into the matter further."
In the coming days, investigators will be actively searching for information to support Fox's claim, the spokesman confirmed.
Until more information is made available, Kathleen Taylor, executive director of the ACLU of Washington, told HuffPost that she remains troubled by what she perceives as an uptick of pepper spray use by members of law enforcement against the movement's protesters nationwide.
"The police have the authority to use force when it's necessary to prevent physical harm, but the use of pepper spray against non-violent protesters raises very serious questions," said Taylor, who highlighted the Seattle Police Department's policy of not using pepper spray and tasers as a first line of defense.
"We condemn police violence in other countries," Taylor said. "Let's first be sure our own house is in order."
UPDATE: 11/23 8:30 a.m. -- On Tuesday night, the Seattle Times raised further questions around whether Fox had indeed suffered a miscarriage.
In an interview at the Occupy Seattle encampment, the Seattle Times reports that while Fox said she had in her possession three ultrasound pictures of her unborn fetus, she refused to reveal them to members of the media.
The Seattle Times further reports that Fox indicated that she neither planned to retrieve her medical records nor planned to sign a waiver that would allow reporters to access such records independently.
In addition, Lark Stebbins, Fox's former foster mother of 10 years, said she had a prolonged history of exaggeration.
"My daughter is a compulsive liar," Stebbins told the Seattle Times. "She's a wannabe drama queen."