Anna Yocca, a Tennessee woman who attempted to abort her pregnancy with a coat hanger — seriously injuring, but not killing, her fetus in the process — will not face attempted murder charges, The Murfreesboro Post is reporting.
Yocca, 31, has been jailed since December 2015 on charges of attempted murder. In September 2015, police say Yocca, at the time an Amazon fulfillment center employee who was about 24 weeks pregnant, filled her bathtub with water, stepped in, and tried to “self-abort” with a coat hanger.
— Sonething News (@sonething_news) December 23, 2015
When she saw that there was “a great deal of blood” in the bathtub, she called her boyfriend for help. He took her to an emergency room, and she eventually ended up at a Nashville hospital. Staff there were able to save the life of the baby, whom they named “Baby Yocca,” even though he weighed only 1.5 pounds at birth. The baby, who will require medical care for the rest of his life because of his injuries, is currently in the state foster care system.
Staff at the hospital said Yocca made “disturbing statements” about wanting to terminate her pregnancy, as Murfreesboro Police Sgt. Kyle Evans told a local TV station.
“The whole time she was concerned for her health, her safety and never gave any attention to the health and safety of the unborn child.”
Tennessee, not unlike neighboring Southern states Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi, Alabama, and others have strict abortion laws, according to abortion-rights advocacy group The Guttmacher Institute. Women seeking an abortion in The Volunteer State must wait 48 hours and undergo state-mandated counseling; doctors cannot perform the abortion through “telemedicine;” plans offered under the Affordable Care Act (that is, Obamacare, as it’s colloquially called) cannot pay for abortions; neither can state public aid funds. Furthermore, as Abortion.com notes, Tennessee only has three abortion clinics.
Abortion rights advocates have long used the coat hanger as a symbol of the pro-choice movement, using the hanger as a metaphor for the days when women without access to safe, legal abortions, often tried to terminate their pregnancies on their own. Yocca’s attempted coat-hanger abortion is emblematic of the return of those days in states with restrictive abortion laws, says Daily Beast writer Samantha Allen.
— RH Reality Check (@rhrealitycheck) December 16, 2015
In December, Yocca was arrested and charged with attempted manslaughter. She remains jailed on $200,000 bond.
According to The Denver Post on Monday, Yocca’s attorney, Public Defender Gerald Melton, recommended that the charges of first degree murder be dropped, saying that Tennessee law doesn’t allow a pregnant woman to be charged with murdering her own fetus.
Officially, the presiding judge in the case, circuit Court Judge Royce Taylor, merely “took the recommendation under advisement.” But the prosecutor in the case, Assistant District Attorney Hugh Ammerman, did not oppose the motion, essentially guaranteeing that the charges will be reduced.
Still, Anna Yocca is not out of the woods yet, legally. Melton believes the charges will be reduced to aggravated assault.
“We’re now in more realistic legal territory.”
In the meantime, Anna Yocca has become something of a cause celebré among abortion rights advocates. Pro-choice advocates from as far away as New York turned up at the jail where she was being held to support her at her December arraignment on alleged murder charges. Advocates were wearing shirts with expressions like “Abortion on demand and without apology” as they chanted “Free Anna Yocca!”
A new grand jury is expected to hand out reduced charges against Anna Yocca after convening next week.
[Image via Shutterstock/David Carillet]