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photo via murfreesboro police department

Anna Yocca, now 32, was arraigned yesterday on grand jury felony charges of aggravated assault with a weapon, attempted procurement of a miscarriage and attempted criminal abortion according to Circuit Court records

This case first began back in September 2015 after Yocca, in an attempt to "self-abort" her 24-week-old fetus with a coat hanger in her bathtub, was taken to the hospital by her boyfriend because she was bleeding excessively after the procedure.

Although the baby survived, he sustained injuries from the coat hanger and Yocca was arrested in December 2015 for attempted first-degree murder. This first charge was eventually dropped, however, because the state law did not apply to the specifics of her case. Yocca has since been imprisoned at the Rutherford County jail on a $200,000 bond for nearly a year. 

Abortion activists across the country continue to stand in solidarity with Anna Yocca. In December 2015, abortion rights protestors came to Yocca's first arraignment hearing, wearing stickers that said "Abortion on demand & without apology" and chanting "Free Anna Yocca!" as they left the courtroom. 

Since these new charges have come out, Cherisse Scott, the founder and CEO of Memphis-based Reproductive Justice non-profit SisterReach, issued this statement regarding Yocca's case:

"Anna Yocca's tragic story should be a wake-up call for the Tennessee Legislature to consider the impact of years of anti-abortion legislation. New abortion restrictions like the 48-hour waiting period and the former fetal assault law demonstrate that women will take desperate measures to have an abortion when they are left with limited or no options. These policies are clearly not working for the women of Tennessee. No woman should face the prospect of jail time for losing a pregnancy, ending a pregnancy, or for seeking medical help in these circumstances. Moreover, it is our lawmakers’ duty to ensure that women have unhindered access to the healthcare they deem necessary for their lives and families. Imagine what the outcome could have been for Anna Yocca if she had more accessible options."

Tennessee has some of the strictest abortion laws in the country. According to Guttmacher, in 2011 there were only 14 abortion providers in Tennessee. 96% of Tennesse counties had no abortion clinics and 63% of Tennessee women lived within this counties. 

In 2015, more abortion restriction laws were put into effect. A woman must wait 48 hours before an abortion and meet with state-directed counseling. This meant that women would have to make two separate trips to the facility — something many women would be unable to do if they're working, live far away from their nearest clinic, and don't have access to transportation. On top of that, health plans in Tennesse's state health exchange under the Affordable Care Act cannot provide insurance coverage for abortion procedures, thus making abortion unaffordable for many women who receive lower incomes. 

Yocca's case underscores the very serious problems women must face when living in states with serious abortion restrictions. When states close clinics and limit access to licensed abortion providers, many women find themselves making dangerous decisions out of desperation. Women become willing to endure physical harm and even risk death to terminate their pregnancies. It's 2016. This shouldn't keep happening. 

Following the election, many women across the country are worried that their reproductive rights will become increasingly threatened under the Trump/Pence presidency (let's not forget how anti-abortion Mike Pence is). Trump, in an interview with MSNBC's Christ Matthews, said that he believed women should be punished for seeking abortions. He's also expressed the desire to overthrow Roe v. Wade in the Supreme Court and when asked what women should do if they live in states where abortion is outlawed, Trump simply said that they should go to another state.

Nancy Northup, the president of the Centre For Reproductive Rights, told AP: "For many women, it's not possible to traverse across multiple state lines. This could have tragic consequences." 

Yocca has pleaded not guilty to these new charges, however, these proceedings have the potential to set a dangerous precedent. Yocca's lawyer filed a motion to try to have her case dismissed, stating that Yocca's trial "makes every pregnant woman vulnerable to arrest and prosecution if she is perceived to have caused or even risked harm to a human embryo or fetus … and that the prosecution is absurd, illogical, and unconstitutional."

For now, we'll have to wait and see the outcome of Yocca's case as the battle for reproductive rights continues. 

Top Photo a Mugshot via Murfreesboro Police Department

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