A Tennessee woman accused of using a coat hanger to try to terminate her pregnancy pleaded not guilty to attempted first-degree murder charges Tuesday.
Prosecutors indicted Anna Yocca this month for illegally attempting to end her pregnancy herself. Yocca in September allegedly filled a bathtub with water, sat in it, and then 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 boy. The baby 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.
Abortions must be performed by a physician under Tennessee law. The state has no abortion clinic providing care after 16 weeks.
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Pro-choice advocates see Yocca’s situation as the result of a rash of laws that have restricted reproductive rights throughout Tennessee, largely since voters approved a November 2014 amendment to the state constitution that awarded lawmakers sweeping powers to chip away at access to reproductive health care.
New measures include SB 1280, which requires facilities providing abortion services to be licensed as ambulatory surgical treatment centers (ASTCs), effectively legislating the conversion of these smaller clinics into mini-hospitals. Medical groups have said these regulations are medically unnecessary.
Yocca was 24 weeks pregnant at the time she attempted to terminate her pregnancy, according to reports.
On Tuesday, Yocca told the court she needed an attorney. The court appointed Yocca a public defender, though the name of that attorney was not immediately available.
Yocca is being held on a $200,000 bond and will next appear in court on January 5.