Woman Tries To Give Herself An Abortion, Gets Charged With Crime

Photo: Courtesy of Rutherford County Sheriff's Office.
A Tennessee woman has been charged with attempted murder in the first degree after a failed attempt to abort a fetus with a coat hanger.

Anna Yocca, 31, of Murfreesboro, TN, was six months into her pregnancy when she attempted to abort her fetus, reports the Murfreesboro Post. After she started bleeding, Yocca and her boyfriend went to the emergency room at St. Thomas Rutherford Hospital. Yocca was transferred to Nashville's St. Thomas Mid-Town, where the hospital staff delivered the child.

Tennessee, Yocca's home state, prohibits abortions after 12 weeks of pregnancy, and Tennessee clinics don't provide abortions after 16 weeks of pregnancy. For women who seek abortions, Tennessee state law requires two visits to the clinic, with a 48-hour waiting period. As of 2011, the state had only 14 abortion providers, according to the Guttmacher Institute, and 63 percent of Tennessee women lived in counties with no abortion clinics. Tennessee is also one of 38 states where fetal homicide is a crime.

Yocca attempted the self-abortion in September, when she was 24 weeks' pregnant. She was arrested on Wednesday and has now been incarcerated, and is being held on $200,000 bail. Yocca, who was indicted by a Rutherford County grand jury, is due in court on December 21.

Tennessee law requires health providers to "use due care to preserve [the] life of [a] baby born alive" in the case of unlawful abortions. Yocca's baby survived; it weighed just 1.5 pounds after the delivery, according to the Post. Doctors believe the child will experience long-term medical issues.

Though coat hanger abortions may seem like a grisly thing of the past, The Washington Post notes that many women in the U.S. have attempted the procedure in recent years. In 2009, a team of doctors in Washington state published a case study on a woman who attempted to abort twin fetuses with a coat hanger.

Cherisse Scott, founder and CEO of the Memphis-based reproductive-rights organization SisterReach, said in a statement provided to Refinery29 that the incident "could have been avoided" if Tennessee had less restrictive abortion laws. "The Tennessee legislature is responsible for the coat hanger; however, Ms. Yocca is on trial, and that is unacceptable," Scott said in the statement. Scott added that incidents like Yocca's could "happen more frequently" if the state doesn't repeal its fetal assault law, which allows penalties of up to 15 years in prison for harming a fetus.

A study from the Texas Policy Evaluation Project found that the number of self-induced abortions in the state increased when access to abortion services decreased. "This new study confirms that women who are denied safe, legal abortion care where they live are more likely to take matters into their own hands — with often devastating consequences," Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, said in a November statement.

Correction: Tennessee legislators passed a law banning abortions after 12 weeks, but that ban has not gone into effect.
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