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Tennessee Woman Faces Jail For Coat Hanger Abortion

A Tennessee woman was arrested and charged with attempted murder last week, three months after an attempt to terminate her pregnancy using a coat hanger.

In September, 31-year-old Anna Yocca attempted to self-abort by penetrating her uterus with a metal coat hanger. After bleeding profusely, Yocca was rushed to the hospital where she gave birth to a 24-week-old baby boy. Though the baby is alive, he has sustained damage to his lungs, heart and eyes as a result of the early birth and puncture wounds. Yocca, who is being held on a $200,000 bond, is scheduled to appear in court December 21.

Tennessee boasts some of the most restrictive anti-abortion legislation on the books. In addition to a ban on abortions after 12 weeks, the state has a dangerously broad version of a fetal harm law which outlaws "life-threatening harm" to a human embryo or fetus at any stage of gestation that includes ingesting an illegal drug while pregnant. The state also requires women seeking abortions to wait a full 48 hours, necessitating two separate trips to the clinic, and undergo state-mandated counseling prior to the procedure. Even abortion clinic accessibility is a challenge for women in Tennessee. According to the National Women's Law Center, over half of the women in the state live in a county without an abortion provider as of 2010.

Abortion advocates say the surge in anti-abortion TRAP laws resulting in the shuttering of abortion clinics nationwide will only increase the number of incidents of self-induced abortions among women like Yocca. A recent study conducted by the Texas Policy Evaluation Project found at least 100,000 women in Texas have attempted to self-abort their pregnancies in the wake of a wave of anti-abortion legislation and clinic closures in the state.

"Our greatest fear has come to [pass] and it could've been avoided," said Cherisse Scott, CEO of a Memphis-based reproductive justice organization SisterReach. "Women are attempting to self-abort due to restrictive abortion and punitive fetal assault legislation. The Tennessee legislature is responsible for the coat hanger; however, Ms. Yocca is on trial."

Media Resources: Washington Post 12/14/2015; Guttmacher Institute; Feminist Newswire 11/17/15; ThinkProgress 12/14/15