Grievous Bodily Harm

In 2015, Anna Yocca, of Murfreesboro, Tennessee, approx. 24 weeks pregnant, decided to run a warm bath and kill her child in utero with a coat hanger. However, troubled by the amount of blood now shed in the bath and “concerned about her safety”, she alerted her boyfriend who took her to St Thomas Rutherford Hospital. Both the mother and child were saved, but the child sustained permanent injuries to his brain, lungs, eyes and heart, that would require continued medical care for the result of its life.

This case is illustrative of the incoherence of the law with respect to abortion. The mother deliberately harmed the child. In fact, her intention was to kill the child in utero. She failed, but as a result of her actions, the child sustained serious injuries to its vital organs that will permanently frustrate his health and well-being. The mother was charged but as a result of a plea bargain, she admitted guilt only to the lesser charge of procurement of a miscarriage serving only a single year in custody, the minimum amount for this infraction of the law. Initially, she was charged with attempted murder in the first degree, dropped to aggravated assault, and then, finally, to one count each of aggravated assault with a weapon, attempted procurement of a miscarriage and attempted criminal abortion.

In other words, we have a situation in which a person can deliberately injure another person, grievously, leaving them permanently harmed and impaired beyond their sojourn in utero, and the situation as a matter of law, is simply to pretend, either that that person, at the time of their injury or death, was not a person, and/ or, that their status at that time is irrelevant because the person that injured or killed the child is a member of a protected class; that is, that they can injure their child in utero, without legal penalty, or can license anyone else to procure the same end, and all because they are its mother. This, of course, is one of the perverse implications of the abortion license; to set mother and child apart at the outset, as if they were morally unrelated and without enduring obligations to each other, but I digress.

What moral justification is there for denying the child in utero the protection of the law, but then providing it once the child is born? This problem is brought into stark relief, in this instance, because the mother’s failure to kill the child in utero has left the child to bear those marks, those injuries to its brains, eyes, heart and lungs, for the term of its natural life. Its good permanently harmed by the failure of the law to protect it in utero. There is simply no moral reason to deny the child in utero the protection of the law simply because of its location in the womb of its mother. In fact, the moral reasons that justify the law’s protection of the child after birth apply just as well before birth, if not more so because of the child’s vulnerability.

The great task of our time is to relieve this incoherence, among others, in the law. There is something deeply wrong in the present situation. It cannot persist. It must not.


  1. Jannie

    Dover I am trying to explore your site. However its a bit hard (near maddeningly impossible) to read because the Shares Bar (social media icons) with f, twitter, G+, mail, and crown intrudes onto the text and requires some manoevering to get around and read, or use the comments box. (using Microsoft). But its the same using my ipad which is Apple software. If it could all be moved over to the right by about one inch it would be legible, but I don’t know how to do that. Maybe its settings or something, or maybe the Social Media Doomlords are trying to subtly block you out. (joke, I don’t really believe in in conspiracies).

    But it looks like interesting work after my own heart and I will try to persevere. I might as well clarify my lapsed Catholic beliefs – I believe abortion is a terrible and tragic thing. But illegal and bathroom abortions are usually even worse. Like Abbott I believe they should be safe and rare. If a woman is determined to do this after proper humane mandatory counselling, then it should be legal. I believe any abortionist who conducts an abortion without ensuring such counselling has occurred should be liable to civil damages for the near inevitable psychological damage and pain that the women will experience later in life.

    This frigging social media bar makes it hard to even write.

    1. dover_beach (Post author)

      Hey Jannie, you can close the ‘share’ bar by passing the cursor over the top and then pressing the close arrows that appear at the bottom of the bar.

      As to the other matter, if abortion is wrong, then illegal procuring an abortion cannot be worse because it is more dangerous to the person seeking to procure it. We do not say that killing a born child is worse where it is illegal because of the danger it puts the parent that is committed to killing their born child. It seems to me that what makes you of two minds is that you have not fully acknowledged the human dignity of the unborn child fully. Once that is done you will nevertheless mourn the parent that endangers her life in procuring an abortion but still see that this danger cannot diminish the good of the child being acknowledged in a law that prescribes abortion.

      1. Jannie

        Hi Dover – got it thanks, I can read it now. Sometimes I am a bit system illiterate.

        You make me feel somewhat ashamed if I have given the impression that I “have not fully acknowledged the human dignity of the unborn child”. Ashamed that it is probably true, and I have personal guilt and sorrow that has troubled me for over 40 years. In my contemporary personal circles I am thought of as an anti abortion extremist, though that is obviously not the case, merely a sad reflection on ubiquitous weight of post modern nihilism. The moral compromise you refer to is probably an attempt to maintain communication and some influence with people who reject outright that the unborn are indeed fully human who deserve the natural protection we afford for the born.

        While I do not feel able to fault your line of reasoning from a moral perspective, it is the practical reality which leads me to seek some compromise. I know convenience is an awful substitute for morality, but I feel in many circumstances it can produce an outcome which is the lesser of two evils. I also strongly believe in personal freedom and responsibility, and law has never been a good way to change peoples personal behaviour, and cannot change their personal morals.

        The practical is that the unborn are totally under the control of the mother. I am explicitly not saying that that gives the mother the right to kill the child, but it does give her the practical ability, through legal or illegal means. In order to prevent access to illegal means it would or has been necessary to adopt more and more draconian measures which become counterproductive, and personal moral responsibility is lost in a slew of victimhood and legal argument.

        I feel that moral persuasion is the strongest way of ensuring unwilling mothers accept their responsibility to protect the unborn. It is really not hard to get this message across to the average woman, their natural protective instincts are close to the surface and given some support they will respond positively. These instincts are unfortunately repressed by propaganda from the abortion lobby, and their political allies – you have referenced that sort of thing. The worst part of this is not just that it denies the sanctity of the life of the unborn, but that it prevents women access to counselling and knowledge of alternative options and possibilities.

        I believe that the “legal and rare” approach which I am espousing would lead to a lesser total number of abortions in a given society, than in a prohibition model or the ‘denial of life’ model which pertains. Again practically it would be an easier model to implement given the enormous power of the interests vested in the established system. It may also be less damaging to women than the prohibition model, even though the defenceless are more deserving of concern than those who put themselves in danger through the exercise of free will.

        While I may be arguing a different position from what I understand yours to be, the difference in our positions is moot, given the extreme circumstances in place in most Western societies. So I wish you well in your attempts to inject some responsibility and compassion into this debate.

        OTO – Arnold was CoE, was he not? I personally don’t claim to be a Christian, perhaps because I am not worthy, perhaps because there is no point in lying to God.


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