Behind the Persecution of Anna Yocca:
Outrageous and Immoral Restrictions on Abortion in Tennessee

January 4, 2016 | Revolution Newspaper |


From a reader:

When a woman attempts a coat hanger aborttion...

It is inconceivable that a woman desperate enough to use a coat hanger in a failed attempt to self-induce an abortion, in order to avoid being forced into motherhood, could  actually be charged with attempted murder and thrown into prison! But that is exactly what is happening in Tennessee right now to Anna Yocca—she is currently in jail, unable to meet the $200,000 bail amount, and her arraignment was on December 22. As Sunsara Taylor has—correctly—stated in her piece on the persecution of Anna Yocca, “When a Woman Attempts a Coat-Hanger Abortion, It Is the Patriarchal SYSTEM That Is Guilty of Attempted Murder—Against Her!" This case is a result of, and itself comprises, an escalation of the attacks on women and on abortion rights.

We are in a state of a historic and unprecedented abortion rights emergency all across the U.S.—and as part of this, women are not only self-inducing abortions because of the lack of access to abortion, but they may then be subject to being criminalized and thrown in prison by the same system that has made it impossible for them to access safe and legal abortion care in the first place! It is immoral to force women into motherhood, or to put women in a situation where they feel they have no choice other than to take their lives into their own hands and attempt to self-induce abortion.

The wave of restrictions across the U.S. that is currently forcing abortion clinics to close at the rate of one every week and a half; the murders, threats, intimidation, and social stigma that women who have abortions and those who provide them are subject to at the hands of the anti-abortion movement; and the way that public opinion has been influenced by the anti-abortion movement to the point where even people who don’t want women forced into motherhood can at the same time view abortion as tragic or as if it is some sort of “justifiable homicide”—all this contributes to putting abortion care out of reach for thousands of women who need and want it.

Let me paint a picture of some of the obstacles that women in Tennessee face in order to get an abortion. First off is a 48-hour waiting period. This means that a woman seeking an abortion would have to visit the clinic twice—once to kick off the 48-hour waiting period, and then again after the 48 hours to have the abortion. This is unacceptable, when you consider the whole war on women and the all-too-real life obstacles that many women face. Maybe there is an abusive partner who is determined that she would go through with a pregnancy in order to further his control over her, and she has to escape his control long enough to get into the abortion clinic. She may be poor and perhaps already has several children to care for, and the time off work and loss of income will be a big problem. Maybe she was a victim of rape and is still dealing with the trauma of being assaulted. Or she just does NOT intend to become a parent, maybe never, or maybe not until she finishes high school, college, or fulfills some other goals. Whatever the reason for women seeking abortions, it is immoral to force women to wait for a medical procedure when it may already be an undue burden for them to get into an abortion clinic one time, let alone twice.

During the first visit, the abortion provider must by law give a face-to-face “counseling”—and the law mandates the specific information that the doctor must give, such as the gestational age of the fetus, description of the abortion procedure, agencies that would supposedly provide help if she chooses to not have an abortion, etc. Doctors who do not do this counseling or do not do it in the way spelled out by the law can be hit with misdemeanor or felony criminal charges or have their licenses revoked. This provision, along with the 48-hour waiting period rule, has nothing to do with any medical reasons—it is nothing but a measure to make it more difficult for women to get abortions. To “borrow” the medical authority, expertise, and knowledge of abortion doctors in order to fulfill an oppressive agenda—this is immoral! To inflict shame and totally unnecessary obstacles on women in order to force on them a life-changing decision, like becoming a parent—this is immoral!

Add to this picture that 96 percent of Tennessee counties have no abortion clinics—in other words, 63 percent of women in Tennessee do not have access to an abortion provider within their county. This means the majority of women in the state will have to travel some distance in order to get an abortion, so there’s the added cost of traveling, including loss of income from taking time off work. Coupled with the 48-hour waiting period, this adds even more costs, because now a woman who wants to get an abortion may have to find a place to stay near the clinic for at least two nights. And if you have state health insurance through the Affordable Care Act, it may not cover the expense of an abortion procedure.

In Tennessee there are no clinics that perform abortions for women who are beyond the 16th week of pregnancy. This is the case in many states, and often low-income women are faced with “chasing the abortion”—doing everything they can to get money together for the procedure, but as the pregnancy continues the costs also continue to rise, and they just can’t come up with enough money before the pregnancy is in the second trimester. Then women in that situation are faced with the difficulty of traveling to another state in order to get a later-term abortion. (See the Revolution/ interview with Dr. Susan Robinson, one of the four heroic abortion providers in the U.S. who openly provide much-needed third trimester abortions: “Chasing the Abortion.”) It’s also very possible to not know you’re pregnant until late in the pregnancy, especially if you have irregular periods, and you might not have the time to gather your resources to get the abortion in time.

While I’m focusing on Tennessee here, these kind of roadblocks thrown in the face of women who need an abortion exist—and are increasing—in states across the U.S. and are forcing women to either take the desperate and dangerous course of self-inducing an abortion, or into motherhood against their will. This is happening now, in the U.S., in 2015/2016—and it is tied to how increasingly inaccessible and under assault abortion care, birth control, and scientific sex education have become.

Fetal tissue is just tissue. A woman is a human being

Another very fascistic element in all this is how Anna Yocca has been criminalized—and her case is not the only case where women have faced criminal charges for pregnancy-related issues. In some states, if you are pregnant and have a substance abuse problem, attempt suicide, or are suspected of having self-induced an abortion, you can be sent to prison! (See, for instance, “The Outrageous Imprisonment of Purvi Patel and the Wake-Up Call to Everyone: The Fascist War on Women MUST BE STOPPED!”) The unscientific idea that a fetus is a “human being” whose rights trump the rights of the pregnant woman is one that 38 states, including Tennessee, uphold through “fetal homicide” laws. Tennessee is one of the 27 states that take this idea even further by defining a fetus’ “rights” as beginning at the moment of conception. However, it’s not actually clear whether the fetal homicide laws will be tested with Anna Yocca’s case, because the state of Tennessee is prosecuting her under general homicide laws—and this could mean that the prosecution thinks their case will be strengthened by the underhanded assertion that the 24-week fetus was already a “human being.”

This is outrageous! And it must be said clearly that fetuses at any stage of a pregnancy are NOT babies, abortion is NOT murder, and women are NOT incubators. Women are FULL HUMAN BEINGS!



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