Surviving a coat hanger abortion doesn’t get you sympathy it gets you arrested

The last few days I have had a lot of hits on an older post, Anatomy of a Coat Hanger Abortion.  From time to time older posts resurface in searches due to a relevant news story. So yes, you know where this is sadly going.

A woman in Tennessee tried to terminate her pregnancy with a coat hanger. She was apparently around 24 weeks gestation. When she started bleeding profusely, an expected complication of thrusting a sharp object blindly into the vagina, she called her boyfriend and ended up in a hospital.

The reports are unclear as to whether she went into labor or was delivered for medical reasons as a result of the home instrumentation (the timeline between her attempt at abortion and delivery isn’t mentioned that I can find), but the local news media reported that the infant weight 1.5 lbs and required intensive care. There is mention of injuries and long-term complications for the infant, however, given how this was reported it is unclear to me what exactly is a complication due to extreme  prematurity and what is from the actual attempt at a home abortion.

Instead of recoiling at the horror that the restrictive laws of Tennessee, might have driven a woman to such desperation where she almost died trying to end her pregnancy by herself Anna Yocca is being indicated on attempted murder charges.

To get an abortion in Tennessee a woman must receive state-directed counseling and then wait 48 hours before the procedure is provided. Counseling must be provided in person and must take place before the waiting period begins, so two separate trips to the facility are needed. 63% of women in Tennessee live in a county with no abortion provider. Health plans offered in the state’s health exchange under the Affordable Care Act may not provide coverage of abortion.

So in addition to the money for the procedure a woman must have the gas money to go twice. If Ms. Yocca lives in Murfreesboro she would have been about 35 miles from the closest clinic, about a 45 minute drive.

Before abortion was legal women were maimed by dirty equipment and unskilled providers. Some died from perforated bowels or infections and the lucky ones survived. No one talks about the survivors being jailed. I have spoken to numerous physicians who removed necrotic colons and drained abscesses from women desperate enough to go to some filthy excuse for a medical office or the back room at someone’s house and not one of those physicians spoke about detectives waiting to question the women.

But now 37 states have the potential to bring another horror on women desperate enough to try to end their pregnancy, jail time.

I never thought I would hear of a coat hanger abortion in my medical life. I’ve seen the consequences of shoddy, cut rate procedures and saved the lives of women who have had organs perforated by unskilled hands. I’ve heard of women resorting to misoprostol at home, but coat hangers?Surely never?!


Well never again is upon us and it is horrific. Now women don’t have to just worry if they will live or die as they plunge a sharp object into their uterus, they have to worry if they survive will they end up in jail.

And so the next time some desperate women does something like this, because there will be a next time, the odds have just gone up that she will bleed to death on her bathroom floor.





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  1. This is what the pro-life movement wants. I think it’s also what we, the pro-choice crowd, fail to understand completely. Every single time I see a pro-choice meme on FB saying “we don’t want to go back to the days of back alleys and coat hangers!” I think that argument is never ever going to sway a pro-lifer. I grew up in a fundamentalist household and hearing stories like this was cause for celebration there. My mother and aunts would gleefully recount these horror stories because it only reinforced their view that these women deserved to be punished, and a ghastly death made it even better. I didn’t become pro-choice until my own children were born and I understood exactly what we were expecting of women who were either ill-prepared for motherhood or just did not want it – to be honest I’d never really thought about it… after all babies… You can expect NO empathy coming from that side.

    1. The common ground prolife and prochoice share is no one wants to go back to self-induced abortions nor the illegal abortions of the past termed “back alley abortions”. No one wants that. The prochoice don’t want the danger of it and the prolife do not want abortion period. That is common ground.

      In making abortion illegal, the prochoice believe it will drive women back to the clandestine behavior of self-induced or “back alley” abortions. Reverting to these behaviors seems to say that the women’s movement has done nothing to empower women and women have not changed much in the last 42 years since Roe vs. Wade.

      But things have changed. Maternity benefits, fathers’ increased participation in child-rearing, child support, paternity testing, women’s salaries, women’s job opportunities, childcare, lack of stigma towards unwed mothers and a sizeable prolife community should enable women to face pregnancy with the ability to bear their children. It isn’t 1973 anymore.

      Sexual behaviors have changed, too. There is an increased sexual market with the separation of sexual activity and conception and women have paid the greatest price. Women most often take or use contraception and women are the ones who have to have abortions. Or have their babies.

      When they can.

      Which brings up an aspect of the abortion issue that is most unfair to women, but rarely discussed.

      It is the women who find themselves pregnant and then are forced to abort when they would prefer to have the child. Does this happen? Yes, it is usually coerced. The husband, boyfriend, mother, mother-in-law, friend talks the women into it. It happens because by having abortion legal, it becomes an option. People who might not encourage a woman to do something illegal or highly dangerous, feel like a sanitized abortion is a possible option.

      Which is worse? Making a woman bear a child she doesn’t want or making a women abort one that she does want?

      There are some hard truths in the abortion discussion. I can’t help but think that women deserve better and am thankful for our common ground.

  2. My question is, who violated patient confidentiality by reporting her to the police/authorities? This is just crazy… What about the almighty HIPAA regulations?

    1. If the Hipaa policies & disclosure of health information policies are anything like Canada, if criminal charges are being laid, or it’s believed the patient will harm herself or others after being released from hospital, health information can be given to authorities. No doubt the physician or a snooty nurse notified the police and pushed for those charges. 😦

  3. Another ghastly story of what can happen when things are made so very difficult.

    I’d guess this is “cognitive dissonance” amongst lawmakers and others.

    In the UK, it was traditionally a bent knitting-needle. Abortion is almost completely illegal in all of Ireland. But now there are cheap flights to England and beyond – though ‘cheap’ is relative, for many cannot afford the flight and the cost of the procedure. N Ireland is part of the UK; normally, any treatment required in England or GB will be free for someone from NI: but not abortion, this must be paid for.

  4. Women have terminations of pregnancy because they cannot care for the children, not because abortion is a recreational pastime. Those hypocrites who want to have those children born, are COMPLETELY unwilling to provide for their needs after they are out of the uterus. Lawmakers who limit access to termination of pregnancy services must be required to link all abortion restrictions with funding for free social services and education for the unwanted children.

    1. This is fact and at my local catholic church not one person would adopt the baby girl born to teenagers who had no skills or money to feed and house themselves much less pay for care of her. It took 5 years for her to get thru the county adoption procedure to find a home where she was wanted and not simply rescued. I watched, shocked how not one of the catholic family members wanted to commit financially to raising this child. They proved they also are hypocrites and this birth was someone else’s problem to take care of. Just like unwanted cats and dogs warehoused in anxiety at a shelter. I still shake my head.

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