Tennessee woman jailed for attempting abortion accepts plea deal for release
Anna Yocca freed after initially facing a possible life sentence, but proponents fear her case is a validation of apprehending pregnant women who attempt abortion
A Tennessee female arrested in late 2015 for using an unravelled coat hanger to attempt her own abortion was released from incarcerate on Monday in exchange for a guilty plea to one felony counting of procuring a miscarriage.
Anna Yocca, 32, initially faced a possible life sentence for her September 2015 self-abortion attempt. Under her plea, she was given credit for the 13 months she spent in jail and released immediately.
But reproductive rights proponents, who fear that Yoccas story is a harbinger of what might happen as lawmakers increasingly limit abortion rights, nevertheless condemned the prosecution that resulted Yocca to make a plea deal.
This plea deal should not be understood as validation of apprehending and punishing pregnant women who have or try to have abortions but instead a frightening instance of how criminal matters system can be used to bully and punish pregnant women and mothers with or without a conviction or valid statute, Lynn Paltrow, the executive director of the National Advocates for Pregnant Women, said in a statement.
Yocca, who is from Murfreesboro, attempted to cause an abortion in September 2015 when she was 24 weeks pregnant. Little is known about the circumstances that resulted Yocca to try to induce an abortion by herself.
According to local news reports, she pierced herself with the coat hanger in the bathtub and called her boyfriend when the amount of blood she was losing began to scare her. He rushed her to the hospital, where physicians delivered a live infant. The boy survived, but because he was born prematurely and incurred injuries from the abortion attempt, he reportedly requires long-term medical care. Another family had now been adopted her child.
Authorities arrested Yocca in December 2015 and held her on a $200,000 bond. A Rutherford County grand jury afterwards indicted her on attempted assassination in the first degree. Under that charge, Yocca faced a potential sentence of life in prison.
Yoccas defense attorney succeeded in having the felony assassination charge dropped in February 2016. In reply, attorneys indicted Yocca under a 2014 fetal assault statute that permits authorities to arrest pregnant women who use opioids and give birth to newborns who are chemically dependent on the narcotics. Yocca was never accused of using opioids.
In December 2016, attorneys fell the fetal assault charge and indicted Yocca on three new felony countings: worsened assault with a weapon, attempted criminal abortion and attempted procurement of a miscarriage. In an email, Paltrow stated that Tennessee adopted its criminal abortion and miscarriage ordinances in the late 1800 s.
The charges against her call attention to antiquated, unconstitutional laws that pose a threat to anyone who might seek an abortion or lose a pregnancy, said Farah Diaz-Tello, SIA legal squad senior counsel.
Tennessee places numerous regulations on abortion rights. In addition to banning abortions after 24 weeks unless the mothers life or health is in danger, the nation requires girls trying an abortion to wait 48 hours between their initial counseling and the procedure itself. The requirement forces-out girls to construct two separate, in-person trips to the abortion clinic, placing roadblocks on women who struggle to access transportation or take time off from work. Tennessee also bans public insurance or plans sold on the nation Obamacare exchange from offering abortion coverage.
Researchers are unsure of how many women attempt to end their own abortions in the US every year and whether that number is increasing. Several estimates, which are not definitive, have placed percentages per of pregnant women who attempt to self-induce in the low single digits.
Reporting by the Guardian has revealed that self-induced abortions are a significant, if hidden phenomenon in America. Volunteers who operate groups helping low-income girls pay for abortions report hearing from many women who have attempted to use herbs or abortion narcotics obtained outside of a medical decided to cause their own abortion. And the Guardian followed one Texas female as she traveled to Mexico and back to procure an abortion medication because she could not afford to have an abortion in a US clinic.
Prosecutions of women who attempt or appear to attempt their own abortions have resulted sporadically for decades.
Were glad Ms Yocca is free after more than a year of unjust incarceration, said Jill E Adams, the chief strategist for the Self-Induced Abortion Legal Team, a group of organizations including Berkeley Law that track prosecutions related to self-induced abortion. Criminal prosecution is the wrong response to healthcare access issues. No one should fear apprehend or incarcerate for ending their own pregnancy or for seeking medical help when they need it.
Read more: www.theguardian.com