Mother Jones

This Woman Served More Than a Year in Jail for a Coat Hanger Abortion. Now She's Free.

After spending more than a year in jail for attempting to end her pregnancy at 24 weeks by self-inducing with a coat hanger, Anna Yocca of Murfreesboro, Tennessee, was released Monday night after she entered a plea deal.

Yocca, 32, pled guilty to “attempted procurement of a miscarriage and was sentenced to one year in jail. She received credit for her time already served, which means she served her entire sentence while awaiting trial. Her sentence also comes with a $3,000 fine.

Yocca was originally jailed on December 9, 2015, two months after she filled a bathtub with water and attempted to self-abort using a coat hanger. Her boyfriend, alarmed at the amount of blood, drove her to the hospital, where she gave birth to a child that was placed under the custody of the Department of Children’s Services. The child had severe medical problems resulting from the premature delivery and the attempted termination of the pregnancy.

The case gained national attention—Tennessee has abortion clinics in only four cities in the state, and reproductive rights advocates denounced Yocca’s imprisonment by pointing out the state’s very restrictive anti-abortion laws and that women who live there have little access to the procedure.

Yocca was initially charged with attempted first-degree murder, but that charge was downgraded to aggravated assault last spring. In November, three new charges were filed against her by a Rutherford County grand jury: aggravated assault with a weapon, attempted procurement of a miscarriage, and attempted criminal abortion. She pled not guilty later that month. 

Had Yocca stood trial and been found guilty of all three charges, she could have faced a possible sentence of 6 to 24 years in jail and up to $18,000 in fines.

Lynn Paltrow, executive director of National Advocates for Pregnant Women, said in a press release, “This plea deal should not be understood as validation of arresting and punishing pregnant women who have or try to have abortions, but rather a frightening example of how the criminal law system can be used to bully and punish pregnant women and mothers—with or without a conviction or valid law.”


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