Ohio man charged with rape of 10-year-old girl forced to travel to Indiana for abortion

Right-wing media sought to undermine veracity of case as states enact restrictive anti-abortion laws

Alex Woodward
New York
Wednesday 13 July 2022 18:03 BST
US President Joe Biden signs order on abortion access
Leer en Español

A 27-year-old man from Columbus, Ohio was arrested on 12 July and charged with raping a 10-year-old girl whose case drew international scrutiny after she travelled to Indiana for abortion care in the wake of the US Supreme Court’s decision to strike down Roe v Wade.

Gerson Fuentes reportedly confessed to raping the girl on at least two occasions, according to police in Columbus.

Police were alerted to a referral from Franklin County Children Services made by the girl’s mother on 22 June, according to testimony during Fuentes’ arraignment on 13 July as reported by the Columbus Dispatch.

On June 30, the girl received an abortion in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Ohio’s “fetal heartbeat” law – enacted in the hours after the Supreme Court’s ruling to end the constitutional right to abortion care on 24 June – outlaws abortions at roughly six weeks of pregnancy, with no exceptions for rape or incest.

Columbus Detective Jeffrey Huhn testified that DNA from the clinic in Indianapolis also is being tested against samples from Fuentes as well as the child’s siblings.

Fuentes was held on $2m bond and remains in Franklin County jail, according to court records.

A preliminary hearing has been set for 22 July.

The case was first reported by the Indianapolis Star, which spoke with Dr Caitlin Bernard, an obstetrician-gynecologist in Indiana who received a call from a colleague in Ohio seeking help for their 10-year-old patient three days after Ohio’s law went into effect. She was six weeks and three days pregnant, according to Dr Bernard.

The report sparked international outrage, magnifying the far-reaching, myriad impacts of eliminating access to abortion care and care for rape survivors in states where legal abortion is inaccessbile.

During impassioned remarks at the White House before signing an executive order on abortion access, President Joe Biden also decried the case, saying the girl was “raped, six weeks pregnant, already traumatized, was forced to travel to another state.”

Right-wing media personalities and outlets rushed to undermine the case, casting doubt on its veracity and accusing news reports of participating in a disinformation campaign to preserve abortion rights, while attacking the legitimacy of Dr Bernard.

On his Fox News programme on 12 July, Tucker Carlson claimed that the case was “not true”.

Fox News host Jesse Watters also elevated those doubts in primetime segments on 11 July.

Ohio’s Republican attorney general Dave Yost – who filed a motion to dissolve the injunction that blocked the state’s anti-abortion law minutes after the Supreme Court ruling – claimed on the programme that there was not the “slightest hint that this had occurred there”.

He also told USA Today that the case is “more likely” a “fabrication”.

The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board on 12 July called the case an “unlikely story from a biased source that neatly fits the progressive narrative but can’t be confirmed.”

The editorial mentions the website PJ Media and its writer Megan Fox, whose doubts about the existence of the case went viral among right-wing users on social media.

She celebrated her appearance on Fox News and wrote afterward that the case “should now be placed in the hoax category.”

Last week, Dr Bernard told The Independent that the girl at the centre of the case is “not alone”.

“This is, unfortunately, the real-life consequences of the abortion ban,” she said. “All states have people who are pregnant who need abortion care, in the most extreme circumstances and in the most common circumstances, and everyone deserves to have access to comprehensive reproductive healthcare in a state in which they live.”

At least three men were charged in child rape cases in the town of Revenna, Ohio, alone, within the last several weeks. One of those cases involves rapes that took place between 1 January and 25 June.

In 2020, the year with the most recent available data, 52 abortions in Ohio were performed for children under 15 years old.

The names of victims are withheld in records, and law enforcement and state officials cannot confirm additional details about such cases without exposing the victim.

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in