An Ohio man has been charged with raping a 10-year-old girl whose case drew national attention following a doctor's comments that the child had to travel to Indiana for an abortion, an account that had led some prominent Republicans – including Ohio's attorney general and a congressman – to suggest it was fabricated.
Democratic President Joe Biden highlighted the case last week at theaimed at protecting access to abortion as state after Republican-led state, including Ohio, enacted near-total restrictions after the U.S. Supreme Court's recent landmark ruling.
A detective testified Wednesday at an initial court appearance for the 27-year-old suspect that Columbus police learned about the girl's pregnancy through a referral by Franklin County Children Services that was made by her mother June 22, and that she had an abortion in Indianapolis on June 30, The Columbus Dispatch reported.
The detective said DNA from the Indianapolis abortion clinic was being tested to confirm paternity.
An Indianapolis physician who provides abortion services, Dr. Caitlin Bernard, had told The Indianapolis Star that an abortion had been provided for such a child because the girl couldn't get the procedure in Ohio under a newly imposed state ban on abortions at the first detectable “fetal heartbeat.” A judge lifted a stay on the ban after the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling overturning Roe v. Wade.
“My heart breaks for all survivors of sexual assault and abuse,” Bernard tweeted Wednesday. “I am so sad that our country is failing them when they need us most. Doctors must be able to give people the medical care they need, when and where they need it.”
Appearing Monday on Fox News, Republican Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost said he hadn't heard “a whisper” from law enforcement in Ohio about any reports or arrests made in connection with such a case.
“Another lie. Anyone surprised?” Republican U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan tweeted in reaction. That tweet appeared to have been deleted following news of the arrest.
Then Wednesday, Jordan tweeted that the suspect “should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.” A message was left with his office Wednesday seeking comment.
In the Fox interview, Yost suggested that the young rape victim would have met the Ohio “heartbeat” abortion ban's exception for medical emergencies.
“This young girl, if she exists and if this horrible thing happened to her – it breaks my heart to think about it – she did not have to leave Ohio to find treatment,” he said.
The law defines an emergency as life-threatening or involving a “serious risk of the substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function.” Under that definition, the 10-year-old's condition wouldn't have risen to the threshold of an emergency, Kellie Copeland, director of Pro-Choice Ohio, an abortion rights group, said Wednesday.
In a statement Wednesday, Yost said the state Bureau of Criminal Investigation stands ready to help prosecute the case. He did not address his previous suggestions that the case was fabricated.
“My heart aches for the pain suffered by this young child,” Yost's statement read in part. “I am grateful for the diligent work of the Columbus Police Department in securing a confession and getting a rapist off the street.”
Separately, Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita, a Republican, also said his office planned to investigate Bernard, Politico reports.
Gov. Mike DeWine, a Republican, previously called the crime a tragedy. “He has said that if the evidence supports, the rapist should spend the rest of his life in prison,” said DeWine spokesperson Dan Tierney.
Police say the man confessed to raping the girl. He was arrested Tuesday and has not entered a plea.
Court records don't specify whether or how the suspect knew the girl. The prosecutor's office declined to comment on the case, and the police department did not respond to a request for additional details. The Associated Press generally doesn't identify victims of sexual assault and, for now, is not naming the suspect to avoid inadvertently identifying the girl.
In 2019, the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana filed a lawsuit on behalf of Bernard, the doctor in the 10-year-old's case, challenging a law passed by Indiana's Republican-dominated Legislature that largely banned a second-trimester abortion procedure that the legislation called “dismemberment abortion.”
The law took effect for the first time last week after a federal judge last week lifted an injunction blocking it following the Supreme Court's decision.
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