At 24 weeks gestation, 31-year-old Anna Yocca decided she was done with her pregnancy. For reasons not yet made public, she took a wire coat hanger and set up shop in her bathtub, with the task of killing her unborn child as her goal. As she went about the work of murdering her son, she became alarmed when there was, in her estimate, too much blood floating in the tub she had chosen as her son’s death chamber. “Alarmed and concerned for her safety,” Yocca called her boyfriend to drive her to the hospital.
Excuse me, she thought of her own safety? But what about the human life she had just forcefully stabbed with a coat hanger? What about her viable baby that survived after a forced delivery at 24 weeks gestation? What about his health and his safety? How could she ignore her own child — a child with a beating heart, whose tiny developing organs were working tirelessly to get ready for delivery day so they could function without medical intervention?
Yocca is facing legal ramifications for her acts toward her son while he was still in the womb. In Tennessee, where Yocca attempted to murder her unborn baby, abortion is illegal after the point of viability (around 24 weeks) with exceptions afterward for the life and health of the mother (but no clinics offer abortions after 16 weeks). Yocca, who delivered a viable child, has been charged with attempted first-degree murder and is being held on $200,000 bond. Authorities say Baby Yocca will need medical support for the rest of his life due to the injuries inflicted by his mother.
In a strange and sad contrast to the Tennessee case, earlier this year a Colorado mother discovered that her state’s laws did not protect her unborn child when the unimaginable happened. Michelle Wilkins, who was 8 months pregnant, responded to a Craigslist advertisement for baby items to stock her unborn child’s nursery. She was met instead by an attacker who cut Wilkins’ baby out of her womb. Her state will not prosecute the attacker for the murder of her unborn child because Colorado law does not recognize a baby at that gestational age as a person. So while there were charges filed for the brutal attack on Michelle Wilkins herself, the unborn child she spent months caring for, planning for, nourishing and keeping safe will never see justice. No one will be charged with cutting a human life out of his or her mother and leaving that baby to die, because Colorado refuses to deem this unborn child a real person.
If we can learn anything from this 16-week botched abortion in Tennessee and the brutal child murder in Colorado it is that laws need to change to recognize the personhood of all unborn children. This tiny boy in Tennessee — whose eyes, lungs, and heart were pierced with a wire coat hanger and forever damaged — has intrinsic worth. His one and a half pound body had value while he was within his mother’s womb and the second that he exited it. While Tennessee recognizes the fact that a viable unborn child is a person, the truth is that his mother could have walked into an abortion clinic a week earlier and allowed a doctor to legally cut him to pieces and suck him out of her womb. Meanwhile, that 8 months gestation baby that was cut from his mother’s womb in Colorado is regarded as less than human by his state. It’s time we started recognizing the tragedy that results from denying personhood to unborn children and we need to think seriously about the mixed messages we’re sending about the value of human life.