When Anna Yocca was first arrested for using a coat hanger to induce a “self abortion” in a water-filled bathtub in 2015, Tennessee law enforcement charged her with first-degree attempted murder.
It was a case that drew national attention from advocates on both sides of the abortion debate, launching conversations about the extremes to which women will go to terminate a pregnancy in the absence of access to safe, legal options. It also highlighted Tennessee’s strict abortion laws, which at the time required women to visit a clinic for counseling at least 48 hours before undergoing the procedure. Proponents argue the restrictions protect unborn children and their mothers.
Yocca was 24 weeks pregnant — the edge of viability — when she tried to poke her womb with the wire hanger, which caused her to bleed and panic. Her boyfriend took her to a nearby hospital, and she was later transferred to a larger facility where she gave birth to a 1.5-pound baby boy.
The child, police said, would be “forever harmed” by injuries sustained in the attempted abortion.
The initial attempted murder charge was later reduced to aggravated assault, which has kept Yocca, 32, in the Rutherford County Adult Detention Center on $200,000 bond since December 2015. This fall, Yocca’s attorney moved for the charge to be dismissed altogether, arguing that the “prosecution is absurd, illogical and unconstitutional,” reported News Channel 5.
Last weekend, a grand jury disagreed, issuing an indictment with three new charges, all felonies: aggravated assault with a weapon, attempted procurement of a miscarriage and attempted criminal abortion.
She will be arraigned on the new charge Nov. 28, reported the Daily News Journal.
Yocca’s case has been compared to that of Indiana woman Purvi Patel, who was charged and convicted of feticide after allegedly taking abortion drugs to end her pregnancy. She was sentenced to 20 years in prison in 2015, but an Indiana appeals court overturned her conviction in a July 2016 ruling that said the state legislature didn’t intend for the feticide law “to be used to prosecute women for their own abortions,” The Washington Post reported.
As in the Patel case, abortion advocates following Yocca’s fate have raised concerns that a return to unsafe alternatives to pregnancy termination could increase as conservative lawmakers across the country push to further restrict funds to clinics, like Planned Parenthood, that offer the procedure. Coat hangers were worn and carried by abortion rights activists decades ago, before the landmark U.S. Supreme Court 1973 decision Roe v. Wade legalized abortion, as a reminder of the grisly and sometimes fatal practice women used to end their pregnancies.
When Yocca was first charged last year, Healthy and Free TN’s president told the WGNS Radio that “we do not want to go back [to] those days.”
One of President-elect Donald Trump’s campaign promises was to appoint justices to the Supreme Court who would work to overturn Roe v. Wade and let lawmakers in each state decide if abortion should be legal.
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