Tenn. woman who tried to self-abort pleads guilty to felony

Anna Yocca (Courtesy: Rutherford County Sheriff's Office)
Anna Yocca (Courtesy: Rutherford County Sheriff's Office)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A Tennessee woman accused of trying to end her pregnancy with a coat hanger has pleaded guilty to a felony and was released after more than a year in jail.

Anna Yocca, 32, pleaded guilty this week to attempted procurement of a miscarriage, according to Rutherford County Criminal Court documents.

Her baby survived and state officials said the child is OK.

The case was unsettling for abortion rights advocates, who fear that President-elect Donald Trump might try to follow through on campaign rhetoric about penalizing pregnant women who have abortions. Trump also said he would appoint an anti-abortion Supreme Court justice who could be open to weakening or reversing the landmark abortion case, Roe v. Wade.

National Advocates for Pregnant Women, which aided Yocca in the case, called the charge “unconstitutional and a violation of international human rights principles.”

“This plea deal should not be understood as validation of arresting and punishing pregnant women who have or try to have abortions but rather a frightening example of how the criminal law system can be used to bully and punish pregnant women and mothers – with or without a conviction or valid law,” said Lynn Paltrow, Executive Director of National Advocates for Pregnant Women.

Yocca, a Murfreesboro woman, was sentenced to one year with credit for time served, court documents state. She had been incarcerated since December 2015, and jail officials said she has been released.

MORE: Police: Murfreesboro woman arrested for attempting to self-abort fetus in bathtub

Police said Yocca filled a bathtub with water in September 2015 and attempted an abortion with a coat hanger. After she began bleeding, her boyfriend took her to a hospital and doctors delivered a 24-week-old, 1.5-pound baby.

At the time, doctors said the child would need medical support the rest of his life because of his injuries.

The baby was put into state custody shortly after his birth. He is no longer in custody of the state Department of Children’s Services, but the child is safe, said agency spokesman Rob Johnson.

Tennessee has several stringent abortion restrictions, including a 2015 law requiring women seeking abortions to receive mandatory counseling and wait 48 hours before they can get the abortion. That law faces a court challenge.

There are seven abortion providers in Tennessee, said Planned Parenthood of Middle & East Tennessee Executive Director Jeff Teague.

Prosecutors dropped an initial attempted murder charge and filed other charges.

The public defender’s office did not comment and prosecutors didn’t immediately return a phone message.

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