A Tennessee woman accused of attempting to induce her own abortion pled not guilty yesterday to three new felony charges from a grand jury including aggravated assault with a weapon, attempted procurement of a miscarriage and attempted criminal abortion.
In September of 2015, police allege that Anna Yocca, 32, used a coat hanger to attempt an abortion. At the time she was 24 weeks pregnant. Her boyfriend took her to the hospital when she started excessively bleeding, and two weeks later she gave birth. She has been in jail for almost a year on a $200,000 bond.
Yocca was originally charged with attempted murder but her lawyer had it dismissed, arguing that Tennessee’s statute does not apply to self-induced abortion and pursuing that charge would be “absurd, illogical and unconstitutional.”
Another recent high-profile case of alleged self-induced abortion involves Purvi Patel, the woman who was released from jail in September after her 20 year feticide conviction was overturned by the Indiana Court of Appeals. The court determined that the feticide law was meant to punish third party actors who attack pregnant women, not women who self-induce abortion, providing important legal precedent against the prosecution of women who have abortions, are suspected of having abortions, or miscarry. Patel was the first woman in the country to be convicted of feticide for self-inducing an abortion.
Abortion rights advocates point to Yocca and Patel as examples of the dire straits women will go to when they cannot access safe and legal abortion. Since 2014, Tennessee lawmakers have passed at least five laws restricting abortion access, including a 48-hour waiting period coupled with mandatory state counseling that requires at least two trips to a clinic, insurance coverage restrictions, and a ban on telemedicine for medication abortion.
Voters this year mounted a legal challenge against a 2014 Tennessee constitutional amendment, known as Amendment 1, which seeks to remove protections to a woman’s right to abortion even in cases of rape, incest or life endangerment. Plaintiffs are asking the court to order state election officials to recount the 2014 vote, which passed with a narrow 53 percent, arguing that the state did not count the votes properly in accordance with the Tennessee Constitution.