After a Year in Jail, Tennessee Woman Pleads Guilty to Felony For Trying to Abort at Home

Yocca in court in 2016. Screenshot via News Channel 5/YouTube
Yocca in court in 2016. Screenshot via News Channel 5/YouTube

Anna Yocca, the Tennessee woman initially charged with attempted murder for trying to induce an abortion at home in her bathtub, has pleaded guilty to one felony count. Yocca pleaded to “attempted procurement of a miscarriage” and was immediately freed from county jail, where she has spent more than a year.

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Yocca was 24 weeks pregnant when she tried to induce an abortion with a coat hanger at home in her bathtub; the infant was born prematurely, weighing 1.5 pounds and with permanent damage to his eyes, lungs and heart, according to prosecutors. She took the plea deal Tuesday in exchange for her release; she’s been in the Rutherford County Jail since December 2015, unable to pay a $200,000 bond.

Yocca’s case went through a dizzying number of dropped charges and re-indictments: the attempted murder charges were dropped to “aggravated fetal assault” in February 2016, but in November she was charged with three new felonies: aggravated assault with a weapon, attempted procurement of a miscarriage and attempted criminal abortion.

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In the meantime, the “fetal assault” law on Tennessee’s books was eliminated: it was meant to deter pregnant women from abusing drugs by putting them in jail. (In a surprise everyone but Tennessee legislators could see coming, that didn’t work and it did not reduce the number of drug-dependent infants born in the state.)

Yocca was never accused of drug abuse; the New York Times points out that two of the three felonies she was eventually re-charged with were enacted in the 19th century.

Yocca was sentenced to time served and released from jail at 9 p.m. Tuesday. Lynn Paltrow, the executive director of National Advocates for Pregnant Women, told NBC that arrests like hers “will discourage people from seeking help.”

Anna Merlan was a Senior Reporter at G/O Media until September 2019. She's the author of Republic of Lies: American Conspiracy Theorists and Their Surprising Rise to Power.

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DISCUSSION

This is what happens when the government funds anti-abortion facilities that blatantly disguise themselves as health centers. There are more of these “Crisis Pregnancy Centers” in the U.S. than abortion providers, and states in the Midwest and South are saturated with them. (Check out this mini documentary from Vice News for more detail about their sinister approach).

If someone googles “abortion” and the nearest facilities end up being CPCs that lie to women about abortion complications and then flat-out refuse to tell you where an abortion clinic is if you still want one, we get this.

When well-meaning pro-choice people focus solely on Planned Parenthood without realizing that independent abortion providers perform the most abortions, and therefore if there isn’t a PP around we assume there is no abortion provider, we get this.

When those same well-meaning pro-choice people focus on “all the other” services PP offers and “not just abortions!!” then we stigmatize abortion and make it harder for women like this to ask real questions and receive real help.

We can lament about the anti-choices until the cows come home, but we need to get our own pro-choice house in order and stop throwing abortion and women who have them under the bus with our “but/except” rhetoric.

My favorite non-profit is the Abortion Care Network, the only network of independent abortion providers in the U.S. They work with providers, other staff, patients, and communities to make sure shit like this doesn’t happen.