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, has told news outlets 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. Under Ohio state law, abortions are banned after six weeks of pregnancy, with no exceptions for rape or incest.
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,” he told the network.
Gerson Fuentes, 27, from Columbus, Ohio, was arrested on 12 July and charged with raping the young girl.
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.
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.
The report sparked international outrage, magnifying the far-reaching, myriad impacts of eliminating access to abortion care and care for rape survivors in states where legal abortion is inaccessbile.
During impassioned remarks at the White House before signing an executive order on abortion access, President Joe Biden also decried the case, saying the girl was “raped, six weeks pregnant, already traumatised, was forced to travel to another state.”
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”.
Fox News host Jesse Watters also elevated those doubts in primetime segments on 11 July.
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.”
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