Tennessee woman who attempted a coat hanger abortion faces three felony charges
Although the new administration poses a large threat to women’s reproductive rights, we all know that laws surrounding abortion are already pretty shitty and have been for basically ever. Right now, there’s a Tennessee woman facing felony charges for attempting a coat hanger abortion. She’s facing three felony charges to be exact: aggravated assault with a weapon, attempted procurement of a miscarriage, and attempted criminal abortion. Anna Yucca, who is now 32 years old, attempted to abort her fetus in a bathtub with a coat hanger in September 2015.
In December 2015, she was charged with first-degree murder and put in jail in Rutherford County. Last February, public defender Gerald Melton lowered the charge to aggravated assault, but prosecutors were not content and asked the Rutherford County grand jury to rethink it (read: they wanted more severe charges at any cost). Last week, the grand jury returned the three new felony charges. Yucca has been in jail since last December.
Yucca is charged with attempting to self-abort her fetus at 24 weeks, which is when the Supreme Court starts to define fetal viability. Her boyfriend found her bleeding in the bathtub, took her to the hospital, and she delivered a 1.5 pound boy. Police said the child suffered serious injuries and will have lifelong health complications. He was placed with an adoptive family outside of Tennessee.
Tennessee law defines criminal abortion like this: “Every person who performs an abortion commits the crime of criminal abortion, unless such abortion is performed in compliance with the requirements of subsection C.” Subsection C says that abortion is legal up to three months into a pregnancy, as long as the attending physician is licensed to perform them. After three months, but before viability, the women can get an abortion in a hospital. At 24 weeks, Yucca’s child could be considered legally viable, as the Supreme Court said it’s anywhere from 24 to 28 weeks, but ultimately it’s up to a doctor to decide. But Tennessee has made it illegal to self-induce an abortion at all.
Attempt to procure a miscarriage, the other felony charge Yucca is facing, 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.” This and the charge for criminal abortion allow a woman to be charged twice for the same thing — self inducing an abortion.
Jessica González-Rojas, executive director at the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, said in a statement sent to The Frisky:
“Anna Yocca tried to end her pregnancy because she felt she had no other option, and her boyfriend helped her seek medical attention out of concern for her life. Nothing in this heartbreaking story gives cause for prosecution. No woman should fear arrest or jail time because she ends her pregnancy or seeks medical help in this situation. Instead, we should ensure that however a woman decides to end her pregnancy, she is able to do so safely and effectively.”
According to the Guttmacher Institute, 96 percent of counties in Tennessee do not have abortion clinics and 63 percent of women live in those counties. There are three Planned Parenthood locations in Tennessee and three other abortion clinics in the state. In Mufreesboro, where Yucca is from, there are only “abortion alternative” and “family planning” clinics, so it’s safe to say there wasn’t a support system built into her health network to obtain the kind of care she apparently needed.
On top of traveling to a clinic, Tennessee women have to receive state-directed counseling and then wait 48 more hours to have the procedure. They’re also not covered by health plans, especially under the Affordable Care Act. Telemedicine for medical abortion is also prohibited.
The situation surrounding reproductive rights in Tennessee is grim, as it is in much of the country. Both of Tennessee’s senators are Republican. All but two of their 11 congressional representatives are also Republican. One, Marsha Blackburn, is rumored to be up for a position in president-elect Donald Trump’s administration and is already part of the Transition Team From Hell. Blackburn has spent much of her career trying to defund Planned Parenthood and fighting against a woman’s right to choose.
Tennessee women, including Yucca, are going to need a lot more help very, very soon. Go ahead and donate to Planned Parenthood of Middle and Eastern Tennessee while you’re thinking about it.