A Tennessee woman was arrested and charged with attempted murder last week, three months after an attempt to terminate her pregnancy using a coat hanger.
On September, 31-year-old Anna Yocca attempted to end her pregnancy at 24-weeks by penetrating her uterus with a metal coat hanger. After bleeding profusely, Yocca was rushed to the hospital where she gave birth. Though the baby is alive, he has sustained damage to his lungs, heart and eyes as a result of the early birth and puncture wounds. Yocca, who is being held on a $200,000 bond, is scheduled to appear in court December 21.
Tennessee boasts some of the most restrictive anti-abortion legislation on the books. In addition to a ban on abortions after 12 weeks, the state has a dangerously broad version of a fetal harm law which outlaws “life-threatening harm” to a human embryo or fetus at any stage of gestation that includes ingesting an illegal drug while pregnant. The state also requires women seeking abortions to wait a full 48 hours, necessitating two separate trips to the clinic, and undergo state-mandated counseling prior to the procedure. Even abortion clinic accessibility is a challenge for women in Tennessee. According to the National Women’s Law Center, over half of the women in the state live in a county without an abortion provider as of 2010.
Abortion advocates say the surge in anti-abortion TRAP laws resulting in the shuttering of abortion clinics nationwide will only increase the number of incidents of self-induced abortions among women like Yocca. A recent study conducted by the Texas Policy Evaluation Project found at least 100,000 women in Texas have attempted to self-abort their pregnancies in the wake of a wave of anti-abortion legislation and clinic closures in the state.
“Our greatest fear has come to [pass] and it could’ve been avoided,” said Cherisse Scott, CEO of a Memphis-based reproductive justice organization SisterReach. “Women are attempting to self-abort due to restrictive abortion and punitive fetal assault legislation. The Tennessee legislature is responsible for the coat hanger; however, Ms. Yocca is on trial.”
Media Resources: Washington Post 12/14/2015; Guttmacher Institute; Feminist Newswire 11/17/15; ThinkProgress 12/14/15