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Attempted 1st-Degree Murder Charge for Failed Coat Hanger Abortion

By Ephrat Livni, Esq. | Last updated on

A woman who tried to give herself an abortion with a coat hanger when she was 24-weeks pregnant is being charged with attempted first-degree murder in Tennessee. Anna Yocca, 31, panicked when she saw blood in her bathtub from wounds to her womb and called her boyfriend for help. He took her to the hospital, where the child was born. The baby is alive but on a respirator, according to The Washington Post.

Now Yocca is facing prison for the failed abortion. The tragic case raises questions about Tennessee's abortion policies and women's bodies as a political battleground. Tennessee technically allows abortions up to 24 weeks of pregnancy but there are no clinics that perform them after 16 weeks in the state.

Attempted First-Degree Murder

Attempt crimes fall under the category of "inchoate" crimes, which are offenses done with the requisite criminal intent even if the defendant's acts did not complete the crime. Attempt, conspiracy, and aiding and abetting are all inchoate crimes.

According to the Tennessee Criminal Code, criminal attempt is punished one offense classification lower than the most serious crime attempted. In other words, a person charged with attempted first-degree murder faces less than they would if the crime had been completed but can still be punished as severely as a successful second-degree murderer.

Yocca was arrested last week, three months after the incident, and is being held in jail on $200,000 bond. She was expected to appear in court this week but there are no news reports on that appearance yet.

Tennessee Tells It Like It Is?

As The Washington Post reports: "The whole time [Yocca] was concerned for her health, her safety, and never gave any attention to the health and safety to the unborn child," Sergeant Kyle Evans, a spokesman for the Murfreesboro, Tennessee police, told local news reporters, "Those injuries will affect this child for the rest of his life, all caused at the hands of his own mother."

But it is also possible to wonder whether Tennessee's abortion restrictions had anything to do with this tragedy. Studies have reportedly shown that women in states with strict abortion laws are more likely to attempt abortions alone.

Tennessee has relatively tight restrictions on abortions. Women must visit a clinic twice, 48 hours apart, before they can undergo the procedure. According to the Guttmacher Institute, as of 2011, 63 percent of Tennessee women reportedly lived in a county without an abortion provider and although the state allows abortions up until the point of viability, around 24 weeks, no clinics offer abortions after 16 weeks.

Defense Counsel

It is not known whether Yocca is represented by counsel yet. But given the severity of the offense she is charged with, she will no doubt be appointed a public defender if she cannot afford representation.

If you have been charged with an attempted crime or crime, do not waste time. Speak to a lawyer, whether or not you did it. Counsel can help defend the case or negotiate a fair resolution.

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