Update 7/13/2022 2:50 pm ET: On July 13, 2022 (a day after this story was published), The Columbus Dispatch reported that Ohio authorities had charged a man in connection to the rape covered in this story. Ohio’s AG Dave Yost issued a short statement saying: “We rejoice anytime a child rapist is taken off the streets.”
Earlier this month, President Biden signed an executive order expanding federal protections on abortions, defiantly criticizing the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. When charging the court’s decision, Biden used a moving story about a 10-year-old rape victim who allegedly escaped from Ohio to Indiana to get an abortion. The only problem, the story is unverified and is being openly rebuked by Ohio state authorities.
During his speech announcing the executive order, President Biden said that “last week, it was reported that a 10-year-old girl was a rape victim, and she was forced to have to travel out of state to Indiana to seek to terminate the pregnancy and maybe save her life.” The president was referring to a story published in the Indianapolis Star that caught fire in media outlets like CNN, The Guardian, and MSNBC. If it has been reported, it must be true, right? Well, not really.
Despite the media frenzy, the story remains unverified. On Tuesday, the Attorney General of the state of Ohio, Dave Yost, said that there was “not a whisper” of evidence on the authenticity of the story, clarifying that there has been no request to investigate the alleged case and that such a crime (child rape) would awaken an immediate investigation by state authorities. Even the Washington Post cast doubts on the story, saying that there is only one source on record confirming the account, and there’s no paper trail or further evidence that the case is genuine.
The unverified abortion story of a 10-year-old rape victim is based on only one source
The Indianapolis Star used as the only source the obstetrician-gynecologist Caitlan Bernard, who said she received a call from a “child abuse doctor” who had a 10-year-old patient who was just over six weeks pregnant and could not get an abortion in Ohio. Bernard told the Star that the kid was now under her care.
However, no media outlet has yet been able to find another source that can corroborate Bernard’s story. It is even stranger that a grotesque crime such as the rape of a 10-year-old kid was not reported to the police by the child abuse doctor that allegedly contacted Bernard. As noted by the Washington Post’s fact-check, Ohio State law requires any medical practitioner to report to state authorities, who would then presumably open an investigation.
Yet, the Ohio Attorney General confirmed in an interview on Fox News that his office has no information over the alleged crime, and they have not found any ongoing investigation on the case. Moreover, when the Post asked the reporter who wrote the article, the newspaper, and Bernard herself over the point, they did not provide additional information on the matter. Similarly, child service centers in many of Ohio’s cities were not aware of any case like that when reached by the Post.
Even if the story were to be accurate, Ohio’s fetal heartbeat law has a medical exception clause that allows abortions to be performed in cases where the mother’s life is in danger. During an interview with Fox News, Attorney General Yost clarified that if true, the child would not have to leave Ohio to get an abortion as the exception would be applicable in her case. Yost also added that if any doctor failed to report a child rape case to the proper authorities, he would be prosecuted by the state as it is a crime to fail to say such a thing.
While there is no evidence that Bernard’s story is a hoax, the only proof backing its authenticity is the word of one doctor who has refused to give more details that could be helpful for state authorities that prosecute severe crimes like this one.
If the story is true, let us hope the Ohio authorities can rescue the child and prosecute the rapist. But if it is false, it is deeply irresponsible by both the media and the President to cite an outrageous hoax to score political points.
Daniel is a Political Science and Economics student from the University of South Florida. He worked as a congressional intern to Rep. Gus Bilirakis (FL-12) from January to May 2020. He also is the head of international analysis at Politiks // Daniel es un estudiante de Cs Políticas y Economía en la Universidad del Sur de la Florida. Trabajo como pasante legislativo para el Representate Gus Bilirakis (FL-12) desde enero hasta mayo del 2020. Daniel también es el jefe de análisis internacional de Politiks.