Arrest confirms Indiana abortion for 10-year-old rape survivor from Ohio

Protesters at Planned Parenthood in St. Louis (Photo by Tessa Weinberg - Missouri Independent)
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(Missouri Independent) – Columbus, Ohio, 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 Gershon Fuentes, 27 after he confessed to raping the girl on at least two occasions. He’s charged with rape, the paper said.

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.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, who signed the state’s abortion 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, Gov. 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 the enforcement of Ohio’s restrictive 2019 law.

In the wake of reporting about the 10-year-old, Yost went on Fox News 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 said, “is my office runs the state crime lab. In 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 for 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.

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, 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.”

In 2021, there were 6,717 sexual abuse cases involving someone under 18 years old, the Ohio Network of Children’s Advocacy Centers reported.  In 2020, there were 52 girls aged 14 and younger who received abortions in Ohio, the state department of health reported.

(Photo by Tessa Weinberg – Missouri Independent)

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Marty Schladen

Marty Schladen has been a reporter for decades, working in Indiana, Texas, and other places before returning to his native Ohio to work at The Columbus Dispatch in 2017. He's won state and national journalism awards for investigations into utility regulation, public corruption, the environment, prescription drug spending, and other matters.