Doctor who provided abortion care for 10-year-old rape victim to be investigated by Indiana AG
Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita says his office plans to investigate a doctor who provided care for a 10-year-old rape victim who crossed state lines to have an abortion.
Dr Caitlin Bernard, an obstetrician-gynecologist in Indiana, told news outlets earlier this month that she was contacted by a colleague in Ohio seeking help for their 10-year-old patient three days after the state banned abortion in the wake of the Roe v Wade Supreme Court decision.
The girl was six weeks and three days pregnant, according to Dr Bernard. 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.
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 30 June, the girl received an abortion in Indianapolis, Indiana. Abortion is banned in Indiana after 22 weeks of pregnancy, with some exceptions for medical emergencies.
Mr Rokita told Fox News in an interview on Wednesday night that his office had started an enquiry into the doctor’s actions.
“We’re gathering the evidence as we speak, and we’re going to fight this to the end, including looking at her licensure if she failed to report. And in Indiana it’s a crime … to intentionally not report,” Rokita told Fox News host Jesse Watters on Wednesday.
“This is a child, and there’s a strong public interest in understanding if someone under the age of 16 or under the age of 18, or really any woman, is having abortion in our state.”
Gerson Fuentes, 27, from Columbus, Ohio, was arrested on 12 July and charged with raping the young girl.
Watters has used his show to cast doubt on the story for much of the last week, calling it “politically timed disinformation” and openly suggesting it was a “hoax” on 11 July.
During his broadcast with Mr Rokita on 13 July, Watters inexplicably took credit for justice “being served” after Mr Fuentes’ arrest for the crime and then called out Dr Bernard for how she handled the situation. Flashing her photo on the screen, Watters even went so far as to argue that the doctor should face criminal charges.
His brazen U-turn stoked outrage on social media, where he was accused of spreading a “shameful smear”.
“Jesse Watters has no shame, no soul,” one Twitter user wrote.
Many called on him to retract his earlier statements, issue an apology, or resign.
“When will you officially apologise to the family of the 10-year-old girl who was raped and impregnated and who you accused of lying?” another asked.
Outside of Watters, many other 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”.
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.”