spending more than a year in jail for
attempting to self-induce abortion with a coat hanger,
32-year-old Anna Yocca of Murfreesboro, Tennessee, accepted a
plea deal on Monday in exchange for her release from jail.
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pleaded guilty on January 9 to one
class-E felony count of attempted procurement of a
miscarriage — which means, “the administration of any
substance with the intention to procure the miscarriage of a
woman or the use or employment of any instrument or other
means with such intent.”
The plea deal also included the dismissal of two other
charges brought against Yocca during her year in jail:
aggravated assault with a weapon and attempted criminal
The Washington Post reports.
Yocca was officially released from jail on Monday evening, a
public information officer at the Rutherford County
Sherriff’s Office told BuzzFeed Health.
September 2015, Yocca’s boyfriend took her to the hospital in
a panic after she tried to abort her 24-week-old fetus using
a coat hanger in her bathtub.
“The investigation showed that Yocca went to her upstairs
bathroom and filled the tub with warm water … took a coat
hanger and attempted to self-abort her pregnancy,” according
to a police report previously provided
to BuzzFeed News by the
Murfreesboro Post, which first reported the story.
Yocca became “alarmed and concerned for her safety” due to
blood loss, the Post reported, and her boyfriend
rushed her to the St. Thomas Rutherford Hospital. The
self-induced abortion had failed, but the fetus was close
enough to viability that it could survive with medical
was transported to a hospital in Nashville where staff
performed an emergency caesarean section to deliver the
1.5-pound baby boy.
According to the police report, “Baby Yocca,” was born with
lung, head, and eye problems. Physicians said his quality of
life “will be forever harmed.” The premature baby was placed
in foster care and later adopted.
Because the case did not go to trial, it has not been
verified whether the baby’s medical problems were a direct
result of prenatal injuries incurred from the coat hanger or
a result of the baby being born severely premature at 24
New York Times reported.
was initially charged with attempted first-degree murder in
December 2015 and faced a series of new indictments over the
past year as she waited in jail.
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Yocca was arrested on Dec. 9 2015 and held at the Rutherford
County Jail on $200,000 bond, according to the
Murfreesboro Post. She appeared in court in
Nashville by video monitor from the Rutherford jail and
pleaded not-guilty. Yocca’s boyfriend did not face any
The murder charge was dismissed in February 2016, but several
months later Yocca was re-indicted on a new charge of
aggravated fetal assault. The indictment was justified by a
controversial 2014 law targeting pregnant drug abusers whose
babies were harmed by their drug use despite the fact that
Yocca has never been accused of illegal drug use,
The New York Times reported.
In November of 2016, Yocca was charged again with three
felonies: aggravated assault with a weapon, attempted
criminal abortion, and attempted procurement of a
miscarriage, and faced up to 24 years in jail,
NBC News reported. The first two charges were dismissed
as part of the plea deal.
case gained attention from reproductive health advocacy
groups who argued the charges were unconstitutional.
Prosecution of Yocca under “procurement of miscarriage” laws
could undermine abortion rights because it puts into law a
punishment for a woman ending her pregnancy, Lynn Paltrow,
executive director of National Advocates for Pregnant Women
(NAPW), told BuzzFeed Health.
“As long as abortion is recognized as a constitutional right
in the US, laws that permit the punishment of a woman herself
constitute an undue burden on that woman’s right to end a
pregnancy,” she said.
Paltrow also said the laws used to charge Yocca violate the
equal protection clause because it’s a crime only women can
same groups fear that the plea deal will discourage pregnant
women from seeking help for fear of prosecution and jail
“The plea deal should not validate the punishment of women
trying to have abortions,” Paltrow said.
The worry of many advocacy groups, said Paltrow, is that
women will avoid medical care after a pregnancy loss, under
natural circumstances or otherwise, for fear of punishment.
Tennessee law permits abortion in the first trimester, in
the second trimester before viability, and only after
viability if there is a risk to the woman’s health or life.
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Additionally, new laws
passed in 2015 require that all women seeking an abortion
receive in-person, state-directed counseling and wait 48
hours before they can return for their procedure, which
necessitates two trips to the clinic.
According to the
Guttmacher Institute, a sexual and reproductive health
research group, in 2011 96% of counties in Tennessee had no
abortion clinics and 63% of women in Tennessee women lived in
these counties. In 2015, there were seven clinics in the
entire state — which is down from 10 in 2008, the
Daily News Journal reported. There was no clinic
in Rutherford, where Yocca resided.