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Anna Yocca. (Courtesy Rutherford County Sheriff's Office)

Controversial case

Woman who tried to abort fetus with coat hanger pleads guilty to felony

By WITW Staff on January 11, 2017

A Tennessee woman accused of trying to terminate her pregnancy with a coat hanger has pleaded guilty to attempted procurement of a miscarriage.

Anna Yocca, 32, was released immediately from jail for time served, The New York Times reports. She had already spent one year in prison while various charges were leveled against her and rescinded.

In September 2015, Yocca sought care at a hospital after attempting an abortion at home. Her infant son was born at 24 weeks and weighed just 1.5 pounds. He had a number of severe medical conditions that can possibly be attributed to injury inflicted by a coat hanger, but may also be the result of his premature birth. The boy survived, and has been adopted.

Yocca was arrested and charged with attempted murder. Those charges were dismissed in February 2016. Yocca was re-indicted under the state’s fetal assault law, a controversial piece of legislation that targets women who abuse drugs during pregnancy. Though Yocca was not accused of any drug use, she was charged with aggravated fetal assault.

When Tennessee’s fetal assault law expired in 2016, prosecutors brought three new charges against Yocca: aggravated assault with a weapon, attempted criminal abortion, and attempted procurement of a miscarriage. Yocca pleaded guilty to the latter charge in exchange for her immediate release from prison.

The case has become a focal point for abortion rights activists, who argue that Yocca’s actions should be seen as the product of Tennessee’s restrictive abortion laws. The state permits abortions after 24 weeks only if the mother’s health or life is at risk, and women who wish to get an abortion must undergo counseling and then wait 48 hours before the procedure. There are abortion clinics in just four of Tennessee’s 95 counties; Rutherford County, where Anna Yocca lives, is not one of them.

Read the full story at The New York Times.



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