Today’s horrifying news

In today’s (well, I read it yesterday) horrifying news, a Tennessee woman is being charged with attempted murder after trying to self-abort with a coat hanger when she was 24 weeks along. After she began bleeding profusely her boyfriend rushed her to the hospital where she was delivered of a 1.5 pound baby who will need medical assistance for his entire life. I can’t find any report on her health, which is pretty upsetting, given how dangerous what she did was, but she’s being held in a detention center.

Everything about this is horrifying to me. I can only imagine the desperation a woman must feel to sit in a bathtub and try to self-abort with a coat hanger, particularly at 24 weeks, so far along. I can only imagine what it feels like to be responsible for a baby needing medical assistance for the rest of its life, or what it feels like to be that baby. This is what we said would happen all along when abortion was made hard to get. Nothing is telling me whether this woman tried to get an abortion earlier, or what obstacles stood in her way, but I just don’t believe that if she was desperate enough to abort at 24 weeks with a coat hanger she wouldn’t have preferred to have done it much earlier and more safely.

And I’m horrified that nobody is questioning this statement in the linked article:

According to local news reports, detectives investigating the incident found Anna Yocca allegedly made “disturbing statements” to hospital staff where she was admitted after using a coat hanger to try and terminate her pregnancy.

Why were police investigating in the first place? Who called them? Why weren’t her statements covered by doctor-patient confidentiality? Are we going to go back to the days of septic wards and women refusing to tell their doctors what happened?

I used to go to pro-choice rallies where women wore buttons with pictures of coat hangers on them and the slogan “We won’t go back.” Well, we’re here.

35 comments for “Today’s horrifying news

  1. Pseudonym
    December 15, 2015 at 4:53 pm

    Why weren’t her statements covered by doctor-patient confidentiality?

    From what I can tell via quick Google search, Tennessee does not recognize physician-patient privilege except possibly in the case of psychiatrists.

    • Pseudonym
      December 15, 2015 at 4:56 pm

      (That’s not to say that even non-physician hospital staff should be divulging information to investigators except under subpoena, but IANAL. Does HIPAA cover this?)

      • PrettyAmiable
        December 15, 2015 at 5:47 pm

        I’m also not sure what it means that the fetus/now baby was viable. If a parent takes a child into the ER and the doctors suspect the child was abused, I’m pretty sure they have a duty to report it (IANAL either, though). Given that the baby was delivered, I don’t know where that puts this woman.

        My heart hurts so much about this.

    • ludlow22
      December 15, 2015 at 6:10 pm

      I’m also not sure what it means that the fetus/now baby was viable. If a parent takes a child into the ER and the doctors suspect the child was abused, I’m pretty sure they have a duty to report it (IANAL either, though). Given that the baby was delivered, I don’t know where that puts this woman.

      The fact she was put in this position in the first place is disgusting enough, and the fact that regressive misogynists in state legislatures have taken us back to the days of coathanger abortions is the most broadly important takeaway, but at the same time I do think that there is some moral complexity to this particular case.

      I mean, the baby was delivered. I’m not sure the standard pro-choice rhetoric entirely applies, because it’s not a fetus at this point, it’s a person with a right to live. That kid has a pretty legitimate grievance against his mother; it’s not his fault that she wasn’t able to abort before he came into being, and I’m not sure that this isn’t legitimately criminal behavior. That it was an act of desperation forced on her by her circumstances, shaped at the hands of morally bankrupt men much more powerful than she, is certainly a mitigating factor, but not an excuse.

      Generally, I’d argue that you have the right to control your own body, including separating a fetus from it; if that fetus isn’t viable outside your body, then so be it. But I’m not sure you have a right to specify that a viable fetus – or, really, a baby at that point- dies in the process of, or after, being removed, if it would otherwise survive.

      • EG
        December 15, 2015 at 7:53 pm

        “If it would otherwise survive” means if it was brought to term, but that’s potentially true at any stage of pregnancy.

        I think this poor woman did a desperate and horrible thing, but I think it is incredibly important that it not be illegal, not only because it will discourage women from getting health care, but because otherwise a pregnant woman will be legally liable for everything she does during the final trimester if something goes wrong with the baby. When I was in my final trimester, I drank tea, took my meds, ate sushi. What if something had gone wrong? Something almost did, after all. Would I have been liable for taking some risks? Who gets to decide what a pregnant woman does with her body?

      • ludlow22
        December 15, 2015 at 8:12 pm

        “If it would otherwise survive” means if it was brought to term, but that’s potentially true at any stage of pregnancy.

        Sorry, I wasn’t clear; I meant if it would otherwise survive being removed from one’s body. In other words, you have the right to absolute control over your own body, including expelling a fetus if you desire, but you don’t have the right to specify that if a fetus would otherwise survive the expulsion, it instead be intentionally terminated.

        Who gets to decide what a pregnant woman does with her body?

        That’s not the question; my argument is that pregnant women can do anything they want with their own body, but as soon as a fetus is viable outside the womb, it’s no longer just their own body they’re dealing with. In other words, eat all the sushi and drink all the wine you want, but you don’t get to choose whether an otherwise-viable fetus lives or dies aside from your decision to have it removed from your body.

        I think this poor woman did a desperate and horrible thing, but I think it is incredibly important that it not be illegal, not only because it will discourage women from getting health care, but because otherwise a pregnant woman will be legally liable for everything she does during the final trimester if something goes wrong with the baby.

        Yep, and in reality I wouldn’t ever support a law codifying the ethical stance I outlined above, because it would almost certainly be used by conservatives to criminalize and victimize huge swathes of women, and have horrible unintended consequences. I’m making a moral case, not a legal one.

        I will add the caveat, however, that I would be totally in support of a civil cause of action for children who suffer medical problems as a result of their parent’s choices.

      • EG
        December 16, 2015 at 10:33 am

        Oh, understood. Yes, morally, I would have…qualms, shall we say, as well. But I’m not sure that would even apply here, as surviving at 24 weeks is by no means a sure thing.

      • December 16, 2015 at 7:37 pm

        But I’m not sure you have a right to specify that a viable fetus – or, really, a baby at that point- dies in the process of, or after, being removed, if it would otherwise survive.

        I gather you have absolutely no idea of what goes into trying to save a micro preemie at 24 weeks’ gestation. That’s not something I’d wish on anyone, and it’s perfectly reasonable to decide abortion is the better option rather than the extremely invasive and painful medical care that is necessary, especially if at the end of that process you’re all alone in the world! And it’s certainly ridiculous that we as a society would insist on new people being created and requiring extraordinary measures to survive and dumping resources into not-quite-born and therefore not-quite-people who never asked for that and honestly don’t know the difference, when there’s so much actual good that could be done for already-existing people in the world who desperately need help.

        Now, if the micro preemie shows up to the hospital already delivered–fine, it’s a baby, and full court press as long as medically indicated. Not delivered yet? Fetus, subject to the informed decision making of the owner of the uterus in which it resides.

      • ludlow22
        December 16, 2015 at 8:53 pm

        And it’s certainly ridiculous that we as a society would insist on new people being created and requiring extraordinary measures to survive and dumping resources into not-quite-born and therefore not-quite-people who never asked for that and honestly don’t know the difference

        Let’s spend 30 seconds thinking about where we wind up if that argument is taken to it’s logical conclusion.

      • December 16, 2015 at 9:16 pm

        Ludlow, that argument, taken to its logical conclusion, is that women would not be forced to give birth to a baby they did not want to have. That is it. Literally it.

        No, fetuses are not aware of their own existence and mortality and are not going to experience suffering from not being born alive. Forcing women to try to give birth to live babies when they want or need late term abortions would cause extraordinary psychological distress to the women forced into that position, and extraordinary pain and suffering from the medical interventions forced on a fetus to sustain life at that point, let alone being brought into the world completely unwanted with no one committed to care for them.

        Just trust the incredibly small number of women who need late term abortion, and leave them the fuck alone. Don’t turn them into a thought experiment about harvesting live babies from them against their wills, especially considering how awful that is for everybody involved.

      • ludlow22
        December 16, 2015 at 10:44 pm

        No, fetuses are not aware of their own existence and mortality and are not going to experience suffering from not being born alive.

        Nothing magically changes, neurologically speaking, when a baby is born. It’s the same organism a minute before and a minute after. I’m all for women having total and unqualified control of their own bodies, including the ability to remove an unwanted fetus, but the argument that as long as something is unaware of it’s own mortality it’s fine to kill it applies just as well to one-month-year-old babies as it does to extreme late term abortions.

        Like, this part:

        Now, if the micro preemie shows up to the hospital already delivered–fine, it’s a baby, and full court press as long as medically indicated. Not delivered yet? Fetus, subject to the informed decision making of the owner of the uterus in which it resides.

        is just totally incoherent. There is no objective difference between a micro-preemie’s and a fetus’ understanding of their own mortality or desire to live, if that’s really the metric you want to go with here. The difference is that if you’re currently taking up real estate is my uterus, I get to kick you out.

      • December 16, 2015 at 11:02 pm

        Ludlow, do you really not understand how invasive and really godawful the heroic measures are that have to be taken to save a premature infant? It’s monstrously unethical to induce delivery for that expected outcome, ESPECIALLY if they are going to go through all that not to be wanted. If 24 week preemies did just as well as term babies, fine, BUT THEY DON’T and it’s really ridiculous to advocate for a policy that necessarily condemns them to suffering. If it’s inside a woman’s body, she gets to decide what to do with it, and saddling women with the guilt of seeing (or even thinking about) a 490 gram infant being ventilated on an oscillator is NOT okay. It’s really not. If it is separated from her body (and therefore there’s no competing ethical interest and you already know that’s a critical distinction, don’t you!) and still alive then a full court press is indicated (although at extreme prematurity, declining medical intervention for comfort care only is a completely valid choice, and one that parents sometimes have to make for wanted pregnancies too).

        How about this: once all the medical, social, and political problems of all born people everywhere are solved, THEN (and only then) can you grandstand about insisting new people be born into the world unwanted and unattached with massive medical needs and a huge risk of pain & death. Heaven forbid my aunt’s cancer gets researched when there’s a fetus we could will into being! THEN (and only then) can you advocate for extracting unwanted post-24 week fetuses alive from the likely very upset women who will be put through that.

        Until then, trust what women in these very rare, difficult, and highly personal situations choose to do with their own bodies.

      • ludlow22
        December 17, 2015 at 1:40 am

        If it’s inside a woman’s body, she gets to decide what to do with it

        That can’t possibly be your actual belief, unless you think that up until the very moment of natural delivery a woman should have the right to abort a baby. I’m firmly pro-choice and even I think that at 8 months 29 days, you have the right to induce early labor, but you don’t get to specify that your baby is killed in the process. That’s an extreme example, but if you work backwards from 38 weeks and forwards from 0 you have to end up with a line somewhere.

        Your position actually seems more based on criteria like wantedness, guilt, potential suffering, and medical effort, which is fine, except I’m not clear why they don’t also apply to one-year-olds that require constant medical treatment, are in pain, and/or are unwanted.

      • pheenobarbidoll
        December 17, 2015 at 9:45 am

        Absolutely it’s still her decision. And as long as she still risks death during delivery, it should remain her decision up until delivery. Personhood begins out of the womb, not in it. Until the fetus is delivered, the woman is the only person in the equation and a person take priority over a non person.

        This is something I discussed with my obgyn. I had a hard pregnancy, and we discussed scenarios. If he could only save one of us, it was to be me. That was my explicit wish in that scenario.

      • Becky
        December 19, 2015 at 1:44 am

        Generally, I’d argue that you have the right to control your own body, including separating a fetus from it; if that fetus isn’t viable outside your body, then so be it. But I’m not sure you have a right to specify that a viable fetus – or, really, a baby at that point- dies in the process of, or after, being removed, if it would otherwise survive.

        Well, first of all, if this woman had gone to a doctor and asked them to induce labour, she would have been refused. Since that wasn’t an option, do you think she had the moral obligation to carry the pregnancy to term?

        And even if you’re speaking hypothetically – the procedure the fetus would survive (induced labour) is riskier and more painful than the procedure the fetus would not survive (dilation & evacuation). Is a woman obligated to undergo the riskier procedure for the sake of a fetus who may or may not survive? What if during the course of the induced labour, a C-section becomes necessary to save the fetus? Is she now obligated to undergo major surgery?

        As someone who has undergone induced labour, I feel very strongly it’s something nobody should have to go through against their will.

      • December 22, 2015 at 11:40 am

        Well said, Becky and pheenobarbidoll.

        Also, ludlow, it is seriously not cool to trot out the aborting-the-almost-born perfectly-healthy-term-fetus trope. Seriously. No one does that. But, I see that you, like most anti-choicers, are perfectly happy to invoke that spectre to justify your judgment of a woman aborting a TWENTY-FOUR week fetus, with incredibly naive, simplistic, and medically ignorant posturing to boot. No, it is not okay to insist someone experience labor instead of an abortion, because it is still her own body. No, it is an unconscionably bad idea to want to add to the number of extreme premature babies in the world, and that’s not something we should wish on anyone. Just stop appointing yourself the arbiter of When A Woman Has To Give Birth. Just stop.

    • Angel H.
      December 16, 2015 at 5:38 pm

      That is absolutely, 100% false.

      Signed,
      A Tennessee resident who has worked with confidential medical information

      • Angel H.
        December 16, 2015 at 5:50 pm

        This is actually the first I’ve heard about “disturbing statements” being made by the hospital staff. The only local news outlet that has mentioned it is the Rutherford County (TN) paper:

        http://www.murfreesboropost.com/attempted-self-abortion-results-in-first-degree-attempted-murder-charge-cms-43412

      • ludlow22
        December 16, 2015 at 10:49 pm

        That is absolutely, 100% false.

        I’m sorry, you’re actually entirely incorrect. Physician-patient doesn’t apply to criminal proceedings at the Federal level, and most states apply only a very limited privilege. In Tennessee there is no general physicians-patient privilege at all.

        I suspect you’re confusing physician-patient privilege with the legal obligation of physician-patient confidentiality, which applies everywhere and is an entirely different subject.

        Unlike most states, there is no general physician-patient privilege in Tennessee. Only communications between a patient and a physician “practicing as a psychiatrist” are protected from disclosure under state law. Even the limited psychiatrist-patient privilege does not apply if the patient’s mental or emotional condition is an issue in a lawsuit.

        Source: Tennessee Bar Association and the American Medical Association

      • HowIsBabbyFormed
        December 17, 2015 at 9:49 am

        But if course, clergy-penitent privilege is sacrosanct and respected in all US jurisdictions because it’s just really important that priests don’t have to report child abuse.

      • Angel H.
        December 17, 2015 at 12:07 pm

        But if course, clergy-penitent privilege is sacrosanct and respected in all US jurisdictions because it’s just really important that priests don’t have to report child abuse.

        Interesting you should mention that because the hospital where this occurred is church-affiliated.

      • HowIsBabbyFormed
        December 17, 2015 at 2:19 pm

        I guess she’d have been better off going to the chaplain than the ER doctor.

      • ludlow22
        December 18, 2015 at 1:53 am

        But if course, clergy-penitent privilege is sacrosanct and respected in all US jurisdictions because it’s just really important that priests don’t have to report child abuse.

        Also not true. There are 18 states with general mandatory reporting laws (i.e. any person who becomes aware of child abuse must report it), and of those only four recognize priest-petitioner exemptions. There are 17 additional states that specifically make clergy mandatory reporters. The remaining fifteen have no mandatory reporting law at all. So that’s a grand total of four states that exempt clergy from otherwise mandated reporting of child abuse; pretty terrible, but hardly ‘every jurisdiction in the US.’

        People. Google is your friend.

      • Angel H.
        December 18, 2015 at 8:42 am

        People. Google is your friend.

        Is there any way you could post your little factoids without the assholeish comments?

      • HowIsBabbyFormed
        December 18, 2015 at 10:22 am

        No, the asshole is part of her core personality. She doesn’t recognize her comments as her own without it. Each Ludlow comment includes relevant facts, poorly contextualized, with “witty” condescending smugness.

        It turns out that child abuse is literally the only thing that can get a US court to question clergy-penitent privilege and is still pretty damn difficult to even do that in reality.

        http://theadvocate.com/news/11384032-123/us-supreme-court-allows-lawsuit

      • ludlow22
        December 18, 2015 at 5:22 pm

        Sorry, I just get frustrated when people correct someone else super confidently and assertively while being, ya know, wrong.

        I do apologize for the ‘google’ comment, that was douchey.

  2. Pheenobarbidoll
    December 15, 2015 at 5:03 pm

    Jesus christ. Everything about this is horrible. Her desperation, the baby being disabled for life and growing up to know, *KNOW he wasn’t wanted, the fucking cops being called…all of it.

    * regardless of her reasons, this will be the most likely conclusion the kid comes to. Kids internalize everything.

    And, knowing pro lifers will use this kid, and this woman to further their bullshit turns my stomach. It won’t occur to them, or matter frankly, that they’re why this happened. Nope. It’ll be just another cautionary tale of how women try to murder babies.

    • EG
      December 16, 2015 at 10:34 am

      And, knowing pro lifers will use this kid, and this woman to further their bullshit turns my stomach. It won’t occur to them, or matter frankly, that they’re why this happened.

      Yes, that’s horrible too. And we’ve been saying all along that this would happen, and they just don’t fucking care.

  3. PrettyAmiable
    December 15, 2015 at 5:45 pm

    Oh no :( This makes my heart hurt. I hope she gets help too.

  4. HowIsBabbyFormed
    December 15, 2015 at 8:37 pm

    A woman who has been abused by her state through its systematic and violent legal control of her body is not morally culpable for the damage caused by her efforts to free herself from this state control.

    Docility and obedience in the face of rising violent anti-choice oppression cannot be a moral mandate. The morality of her actions cannot be evaluated separate from their context of being made as resisting oppressive state violence.

    • ludlow22
      December 15, 2015 at 8:51 pm

      A woman who has been abused by her state through its systematic and violent legal control of her body is not morally culpable for the damage caused by her efforts to free herself from this state control.

      Most terrorist organizations make a similar argument. It’s morally bankrupt in both cases; perhaps if you limited your case to damage caused to the state, and not innocent bystanders, you’d have an argument.

      • HowIsBabbyFormed: Disemvoweled
        December 15, 2015 at 9:35 pm

        In this case, bystander is an overstatement. More like instander amirite?

        the head of a giraffe against a bright blue sky: its mouth is pursed sidewaysthnk y’r trrrst.

        MODERATOR NOTE: content breaching the Feministe Commenting Policy has been disemvoweled.

      • December 16, 2015 at 7:41 pm

        Yeah, I’m calling bullshit on “innocent bystanders” too. The fetus is the thing that is the most proximal cause of harm to this woman. She cannot exercise her freedom without separating from the fetus the state has inflicted on her.

      • HowIsBabbyFormed
        December 18, 2015 at 10:23 am

        Satiricalifragilistic, yup!

    • ludlow22
      December 16, 2015 at 4:03 am

      Bahaha.

      I’m a fan.

Comments are closed.