Just a week after the fall of Roe, a horrifying story emerged from Ohio: A pregnant 10-year-old girl was denied an abortion in the state and forced to travel to Indiana for care. Somehow, the story got even worse, as right-wing media began circulating doubts about its veracity. Now, a 27-year-old man has been arrested and charged with raping the victim—offering further proof that the nightmarish account was all-too real.
The case became an international news story after The Indianapolis Star reported on July 1 that Indianapolis ob-gyn Dr. Caitlin Bernard received a request from an Ohio colleague who had seen the 10-year-old victim. She was six weeks and three days pregnant—which meant that under the state’s new six-week abortion ban, which lacks exceptions for rape and incest, she could not be treated in her home state. The story, an awful illustration of the multiplying injustices of post-Roe America, struck such a chord that even President Biden, who’s long been reluctant to even say the word “abortion,” mentioned it in a speech last week.
“Ten years old,” Biden said in remarks Friday. “Ten years old, raped, six weeks pregnant. Already traumatized. Was forced to travel to another state. Imagine being that little girl. I’m serious, just imagine being that little girl.”
Now, according to a report by The Columbia Dispatch, a Columbus man named Gershon Fuentes has been arrested for the crime:
Columbus police were made aware of the girl’s pregnancy through a referral by Franklin County Children Services that was made by her mother on June 22, Det. Jeffrey Huhn testified Wednesday morning at Fuentes’ arraignment. On June 30, the girl underwent a medical abortion in Indianapolis, Huhn said.
Fuentes is being held on a $2 million bond.
The arrest comes amid a growing conservative conspiracy theory alleging that the entire story was made up. In the days following the original article, conservative outlets and political figures began publicly denying its veracity, citing the fact that Dr. Bernard was seemingly the only source for the account and that she didn’t provide details about the girl’s location or her referring colleague’s identity. Of course, sharing this information would have the potential to compromise the already incredibly vulnerable victim’s anonymity while also running afoul of ethical standards, but that didn’t stop the cries of “fake news.”
Then, Ohio’s anti-abortion Attorney General Dave Yost said in an interview on Fox News Monday that he had not heard “a whisper” about the case from local law enforcement, and suggested that it was “more likely that this is a fabrication.” During a radio interview Wednesday morning , Yost declared that there were “some serious red flags about the story,” adding that,“there’s a ton of questions and frankly, a ton of misinformation out there too.”
The Ohio Capitol Journal reported that allies of Republican Governor Mike DeWine “contacted members of the press, asking how sure they were that the case of the pregnant 10-year-old even happened.”
And just yesterday, the Wall Street Journal’s Editorial Board ran a piece declaring the account “An Abortion Story Too Good to Confirm”—a particularly ghoulish way to talk about a reported child rape.
In response to the news of the arrest, a representative for Democratic nominee for Ohio governor Nan Whaley called upon Yost and DeWine to apologize for spreading doubts about the story.
“Rather than dealing with the awful repercussions of their abortion ban, Governor DeWine, Attorney General Yost, and their staffs chose to attack a 10-year-old rape survivor,” said Whaley campaign communications director Courtney Rice in a statement. “They should be ashamed of themselves, and have once again shown that they are unfit to lead our state. They owe this little girl, her family, and every Ohioan an apology. Ohio deserves better than these callous politicians.”
In the wake of the news of Gershon’s arrest, Yost released an apology-free, one-sentence statement saying, “We rejoice anytime a child rapist is taken off the streets.”
So if you’re waiting for a show of remorse from the people who turned the rape of an elementary schooler into conspiracy theory fodder, it’s probably not worth holding your breath.