Hundreds gather at a rally to support abortion rights at the Ohio Statehouse, Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Graham Stokes for the Ohio Capital Journal.)
Columbus police have arrested a 27-year-old on charges of raping a 10-year-old who traveled to Indiana late last month for an abortion, The Columbus Dispatch reported Wednesday.
Ohio Republican leaders, who passed and implemented a law making rape victims ineligible for abortions after six weeks, have been trying to raise doubts about the girl’s existence.
The Dispatch reported police as saying they arrested Gerson Fuentes, 27, after he confessed to raping the girl on at least two occasions. He’s charged with rape, the paper said.
The arrest presumably provides the proof of the girl’s existence that Ohio Republicans have been saying they haven’t been able to find.
The Indianapolis Star on July 6 first reported on the girl, who is said to be homeless.
Caitlin Bernard, an Indianapolis OB-GYN, told the paper she’d gotten a call two days earlier from an Ohio colleague saying that a pregnant 10-year-old was just beyond Ohio’s six-week limit for abortions and needed help. The girl was soon on her way to Indianapolis, the story said.
Ten-year-olds who become pregnant are by definition rape victims. But Ohio’s abortion law — which took effect hours after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v Wade on June 24 — doesn’t make exceptions for rape and incest.
The Ohio girl’s mother reported her abuse to Franklin County Children’s Services on June 22 — just two days before the new restrictions took effect, The Dispatch reported. She received an abortion in Indianapolis on June 30, the paper said.
Indiana is widely expected to pass its own abortion restrictions that would close off that option for future Ohio children who become pregnant.
Gov. Mike DeWine, who signed the Ohio law in 2019, wouldn’t comment last week on whether 10-year-old rape victims should be forced to have their rapist’s babies. Instead, he decried child rape and stressed that all he knew about the case was from media reports.
On Wednesday, DeWine’s spokesman, Dan Tierney, again refused to comment on whether child rape victims should be forced to carry their pregnancies to term.
“Our office does not have new comments,” he said in an email. “As we previously stated, Governor DeWine views this crime as a horrific tragedy, and he has said that if the evidence supports, the rapist should spend the rest of his life in prison.”
Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost rushed to court in the wake of the Supreme Court ruling to clear the way for enforcement of Ohio’s restrictive 2019 law.
In the wake of reporting about the 10-year-old, Yost went on Fox News on Monday to raise doubts about her existence. He said he works closely with law enforcement authorities and he’d gotten “not a whisper” about the case.
“Something maybe even more telling,” he told host Jesse Watters, “is my office runs the state crime lab. Any case like this, you’re going to have a rape kit, you’re going to have biological evidence and you would be looking for DNA analysis… There is no case request for analysis that looks anything like this.”
That argument ignores the fact that rape kits are only useful on young rape victims if they’re conducted within 72 hours of the incident. And the state’s own manual says children might not tell their abuse and rape stories until well after the incidents happen. That can result in adult denial that attacks happened at all, it adds.
Then on Tuesday, Yost told The Dispatch that more time passing without a confirmation makes it “more likely that this is a fabrication.”
Yost’s office didn’t immediately respond when asked whether he believed child rape victims should have to have those babies, or whether it was important to believe stories about sexual violence.
He did, however did put out 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,” it said. “Justice must be served and (the Bureau of Criminal Investigation) stands ready to support law enforcement across Ohio putting these criminals behind bars.”
After news of the arrest broke, critics blasted Ohio Republicans for their skepticism.
“For years, doctors, rape survivors, and abortion patients have been telling Mike DeWine, Dave Yost, and Republicans in the legislature exact what the impact of banning abortion would be,” Pro-Choice Ohio Deputy Director Jaime Miracle said in an email. “How horrible is it that the state’s highest law enforcement officer went on camera and told the world that he didn’t believe the story of this young girl? How terrible of an attorney general is Dave Yost that he doesn’t believe rape survivors exist? What signal does that give to rape survivors across the state and the country?”
In 2021, there were 6,717 were sexual abuse cases ranging in age from 0-18 years old the Ohio Network of Children’s Advocacy Centers reported.
In 2020, 52 girls aged 14 and younger got abortions in Ohio, the state department of health reported.
And Columbus police on Tuesday said that they had taken “at least one” report of a 10-year-old being a victim of sexual abuse since May 15.
In addition, just after DeWine signed the 2019 law, CBS News reported on a case eerily similar to the one reported Wednesday. In that case, an 11-year-old Ohio girl had been impregnated by a 26-year-old.
But after Yost started raising doubts, firebrand GOP Congressman Jim Jordan joined the fray on Tuesday, calling the report of the raped girl “a lie.”
“Another lie. Anyone surprised?” Jordan tweeted.
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