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Police verify case of a child rape victim who sought an abortion in Indiana

Liesl Bonneau

State leaders and abortion rights activists are reacting to a highly-publicized case involving a 10-year-old girl who got an abortion in Indiana last month.

A Franklin County court has charged27-year-old Gerson Fuentes with rape in connection with the case. Fuentes is an undocumented man who has been living in the Columbus, Ohio area.

The case gained national attention during the past week after the Indianapolis Star newspaper reported the child and her mother had traveled to a clinic there to receive an abortion because it couldn't be obtained in Ohio. President Joe Biden referenced the case when he was in Ohio last week.

"Ten years old. Raped. Six weeks pregnant. Already traumatized. Was forced to travel to another state. Imagine being that little girl," Biden said.

State leaders, including Republican Gov. Mike DeWine and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Nan Whaley — as well as other legislative leaders — commented on the case after the report.

And Attorney General Dave Yost, a Republican, cast doubt on the situation in a Fox News appearance Monday, saying there was no evidence of an investigation and “not a whisper” to his office about an investigation.

Since the filing earlier today in Franklin County Municipal Court, Yost has issued a statement.

“My heart aches for the pain suffered by this young child. I am grateful for the diligent work of the Columbus Police Department in securing a confession and getting a rapist off the street," Yost said.

Yost emphasized he did not doubt the victim in this case but did take issue with the reporter who wrote the story, saying it was based on a single source that had been known to have a strong opinion on the abortion issue.

Jaime Miracle of Pro-Choice Ohio was critical of Yost's comments. She said the 10-year-old rape victim is not alone. She said to look at the 2020 Ohio Abortion report for example.

"There were just over 50 abortions performed on people under 15-years-old in the last year of the report. It is unfortunately not uncommon for young people in Ohio and all people in Ohio to be victims of sexual assault and incest," Miracle said.

Miracle has been fighting the abortion restrictions passed by Ohio lawmakers, including the six-week abortion ban. She said this situation shows why any abortion restrictions passed in Ohio should at least contain exceptions in cases of rape or incest. Ohio's new six-week abortion ban doesn't include that exception. Neither do many of the abortion bans currently proposed in the state legislature. And Miracle said she doesn't think the public awareness of this case will make lawmakers think twice about passing future abortion restrictions that don't contain exceptions for rape or incest.

"I don't have faith that this will change anything. It is the solid platform of the Republican party. It is the goal and commission of Ohio Right to Life and other organizations pushing these bills, these bans on abortion, to ban all abortions without exception," Miracle said.

Yost said it is possible that the 10-year-old could have received an abortion in Ohio, even under the new ban.

"It's very likely that a 10-year-old here in Ohio could have been treated here in Ohio under one of two exceptions. The first one, of course, is life of the mother and it's possible that young of a child might face a serious mortality risk carrying a pregnancy to term and that is an exception in the 'heartbeat’ bill," Yost said.

He said the second exception involves a medical emergency because carrying a pregnancy to term could affect the long-term impairment of a bodily function. In this case, he said there's a possibility that a very young person like this could end up being sterile as a result. But he said more medical information would be needed to determine if either of those exceptions could be used in the 10-year-old's case.

Copyright 2022 The Statehouse News Bureau. To see more, visit The Statehouse News Bureau.

Jo Ingles is a professional journalist who covers politics and Ohio government for the Ohio Public Radio and Television for the Ohio Public Radio and Television Statehouse News Bureau. She reports on issues of importance to Ohioans including education, legislation, politics, and life and death issues such as capital punishment.