December 15, 2015 — A Tennessee woman who allegedly tried to self-induce an abortion at 24 weeks of pregnancy has been indicted on a charge of first-degree attempted murder, the Murfreesboro Post reports.
The woman, Anna Yocca, was arrested on Wednesday after the grand jury for Rutherford County, Tenn., issued the indictment. She is being held on a $200,000 bond (Stockard, Murfreesboro Post, 12/11). Her next court appearance is scheduled for Dec. 21.
Tennessee's Antiabortion-Rights Laws
According to the Washington Post, Tennessee is one of 38 states that enacted a "fetal homicide" law. The state in 2012 approved a law that expands the definition of "another person" to include fetuses at any point in gestation. Twenty-two other states have similarly broad definitions.
Under the Tennessee law, individuals can be charged for harm committed against an embryo or fetus. The law includes an exemption for pregnant women who obtain legal abortion care.
Abortion-rights advocates have noted that onerous regulations on abortion can make it more difficult for women to access legal abortion care and more likely to try to self-induce abortions. According to the Washington Post, Tennessee has several abortion restrictions in place, including a 48-hour mandatory delay (SB 1222) before the procedure. The Washington Post discusses the potential impact of state restrictions on abortion, referencing the results of a study from the Texas Policy Evaluation Project after Texas' introduction of strict legislation that resulted in approximately 20 clinic closures. The study authors found that "at least 100,000 Texas women have attempted a self-induced abortion." An author of the study concluded, "We suspect that abortion self-induction will increase as clinic-based care becomes more difficult to access" (Kaplan, Washington Post, 12/14).
According to the Murfreesboro Post, a report from law enforcement states that Yocca in September attempted to self-induce an abortion by using a coat hanger. Yocca's boyfriend took her to the emergency department at St. Thomas Rutherford Hospital after she experienced significant blood loss as a result of the attempted abortion. She later was transferred to St. Thomas Mid-Town in Nashville, Tenn., where the infant was delivered (Murfreesboro Post, 12/11).
Farah Diaz-Tello, senior staff attorney at the National Advocates for Pregnant Women, explained that "Tennessee's homicide law explicitly doesn't apply to [Yocca] ... but this arrest tells women that if they try to seek emergency medical assistance, they may end up behind bars. That won’t stop women from having abortions, but it will stop them from getting help."
SisterReach Founder and CEO Cherisse Scott noted, "These acts of desperation will happen more frequently unless the Tennessee Legislature reconsiders its posture about both current and potential anti-abortion legislation and the fetal assault law which allows a penalty of up to 15 years in prison for fetal harm" (D'Almeida, RH Reality Check, 12/14).