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Vol. 80/No. 7 February 22, 2016
Attempted murder charges filed under anti-abortion law
BY SUSAN LAMONT
ATLANTA — A growing number of states have adopted laws expanding the definition of “personhood” to include a fetus, part of broader attacks on women’s right to choose abortion. The Tennessee government passed such a law in 2012. Now it is being used to charge 31-year-old Anna Yocca with attempted first-degree murder for allegedly trying to end her pregnancy at 24 weeks.
“Whatever the exact circumstances, it’s clear she was in a desperate position,” said Cherisse Scott, of the group SisterReach in Memphis, in a Jan. 29 phone interview. “We’re afraid that the hostile environment around abortion that’s been created by the Tennessee state legislature will force more women into the situation Anna Yocca was in.”
Yocca, an Amazon fulfillment center worker, was arrested Dec. 9. She is accused of using a coat hanger to try to induce an abortion. She went to the hospital bleeding, and doctors eventually delivered a baby boy, who weighed 1.5 pounds and has multiple serious medical problems. She pleaded not guilty to the charges, which carry a possible sentence of life in prison. Yocca is being held in jail on $200,000 bail, with her next hearing scheduled for Feb. 29.
Tennessee allows abortions up to the “point of viability,” usually around 24 weeks, with exceptions afterward for the life and health of the woman. But no clinics in the state offer abortions after 16 weeks. Last July the state legislature imposed a 48-hour waiting period, after scripted “counseling” by a doctor, forcing women to make at least two trips to a clinic to obtain an abortion.
“The legislature also enacted the requirement that clinics performing surgical abortions must meet standards for ambulatory surgical treatment centers,” Jeff Teague, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Middle and East Tennessee, told the Militant. “There are six health centers in the state that perform surgical abortions. Of those, two don’t yet meet those standards.”
Planned Parenthood in Tennessee lost federal funds for family planning services in 2011, when the state legislature voted that those funds could only go to county and city public health facilities. “This means people have to pay for their medical care or have insurance,” said Teague. “We know that not everyone we used to help is getting served at these public clinics.”
In Texas, where restrictions on abortion access have forced the closure of 20 clinics in recent years, a study by the Texas Policy Evaluation Project found that at least 100,000 women have attempted a self-induced abortion, usually by taking hormonal pills, alcohol, illegal drugs, herbs or homeopathic remedies or by getting punched in the abdomen, according to the Washington Post.
“When abortions aren’t available that does not stop women from trying to accomplish that goal, taking matters into their own hands,” said Willie Parker, a doctor who provides abortions in Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi, in a Feb. 2 interview on WNYC radio. This “potentially leads them to have complications that are unnecessary when abortion is safe and legal.”
The clinic where Parker works in Jackson, Mississippi, is the last one left in the state. It is threatened with closure by a state law requiring doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital, which most won’t grant. The U.S. Supreme Court will hear a challenge to a similar law in Texas this spring.
Meanwhile, a federal district judge in San Francisco issued a preliminary injunction Feb. 6 ordering the anti-abortion Center for Medical Progress not to release further secretly filmed videos that they claimed showed Planned Parenthood illegally sold fetal tissue. These claims are baseless, said Judge William Orrick. In January a grand jury in Houston indicted the group’s director, David Daleiden, and an associate on criminal charges of using false driver’s licenses to infiltrate Planned Parenthood.