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No Attempted Murder Charge for Tennessee Woman Indicted for Self-Induced Abortion

Imani Gandy

The woman's public defender charged that Tennessee law does not permit a pregnant person to be charged with murdering that person's own fetus.

Anna Yocca, a Tennessee woman accused of using a coat hanger to try to terminate her pregnancy, will not face attempted first-degree murder charges, reports the Associated Press.

Prosecutors indicted Yocca in December for illegally attempting to end her pregnancy. In September, Yocca allegedly filled a bathtub with water, sat in it, took a coat hanger, and attempted to abort her pregnancy, prosecutors said. Yocca reportedly bled heavily during the attempt, at which point her boyfriend rushed her to the hospital.

Medical professionals at Saint Thomas Midtown Hospital in Nashville delivered a 1.5-pound infant. The newborn survived and will reportedly need extensive medical care. Hospital staff alerted law enforcement officials after, they said, Yocca made “disturbing statements” to them about trying to terminate her pregnancy.

The public defender assigned to Yocca, Gerald Melton, asked a Murfreesboro, Tennessee, judge to dismiss the charges against Yocca, arguing that state law does not permit a pregnant person to be charged with murdering their own fetus. Melton informed the judge that the prosecutor had agreed to present a new indictment to the grand jury.

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Melton told reporters that he believed the new charge would be aggravated assault, according to the Associated Press.

While the circumstances of Yocca’s situation remain unclear, Tennessee has seen an uptick in legislative attacks on abortion rights since voters in 2014 approved an amendment to the state constitution that allows lawmakers to pass and implement legislation restricting legal abortion access.

Since the amendment’s passage, lawmakers have introduced measures that would force women seeking abortion care to obtain an ultrasound, require abortion clinics to be licensed as ambulatory surgical centers, impose a 48-hour forced waiting period, along with an unconstitutional law that would ban abortion after 20 weeks.

Yocca is being held on a $200,000 bond, but according to her attorney, the impending indictment should carry with it a much lower bond.

Melton told reporters that he would discuss the bond and her release with the district attorney, but that in the meantime, “I see her every week. I think she’s doing all right.”

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