Abortion rights advocates gather and march outside the Hamilton County Courthouse in Cincinnati, Ohio.Jason Whitman/NurPhoto/AP
An Ohio man has been charged with the rape of a 10-year-old girl whose story became international news after she had to travel to Indiana to receive an abortion in the wake of the Supreme Court overturning of Roe v. Wade. The news reaffirms the tragic consequences of what happens when states, like Ohio, enact strict abortion bans.
The police arrested twenty seven-year-old Columbus resident Gershon Fuentes on Tuesday after he confessed to raping the child at least on two occasions, according to the Columbus Dispatch. Fuentes is being held in the Franklin County jail on a $2 million bond.
The case was first reported by the Indianapolis Star in a July 1 article quoting Dr. Caitlin Bernard, an Indianapolis obstetrician-gynecologist. She said she had learned from a colleague in Ohio about a 10-year-old who was six weeks and three days pregnant. Ohio’s law bans abortions after six weeks with no exceptions for rape or incest.
The story immediately went viral. And it led to appalling responses. South Dakota’s Governor Kristi Noem suggested a child in a similar situation in her state might be forced to carry the baby to term. The Wall Street Journal‘s editorial board cast doubt on the existence of the girl.
Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost said it was “likely that this is a fabrication,” only to issue a statement after news of the arrest broke saying “we rejoice anytime a child rapist is taken off the streets.”
Last week, President Joe Biden mentioned the case when signing an executive order to protect abortion rights. “She was forced to have to travel out of the state to Indiana to seek to terminate the pregnancy and maybe save her life,” Biden said. “Ten years old—10 years old—raped, six weeks pregnant, already traumatized, was forced to travel to another state.” A 10-year-old girl, he added, shouldn’t “be forced to give birth to a rapist’s child.”
The Columbus Dispatch reports that the Franklin County Children Services referred the girl’s case to the Columbus police on June 22 and that DNA material obtained at the Indianapolis clinic where she underwent the abortion on June 30 is being tested against samples from Fuentes.