After Republicans and conservative media spent days suggesting the viral story of a 10-year-old rape victim who was forced to travel across state lines for an abortion was fake before an arrest was made Wednesday, the Republican attorney general of Indiana now wants to investigate—the doctor who did the procedure.
Indiana AG Todd Rokita said Wednesday his office is now investigating whether Dr. Caitlin Bernard, who told the Indianapolis Star earlier this month about the case without identifying the patient, reported the assault of the 10-year-old girl to Indiana authorities.
Rokita made this very official announcement—where he didn’t officially accuse Bernard of anything—on Fox News, of course.
“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,” Rokita told Jesse Watters, who’d had Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost on two nights prior to suggest that the story was fake.
“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,” Rokita told Fox News. (Abortion is currently legal up until 22 weeks in Indiana.) “And then if a child is being sexually abused, of course parents need to know. Authorities need to know. Public policy experts need to know.”
An anti-abortion group in Indiana accused Bernard and eight other doctors who of failing to report child abuse in 2018, but Indiana medical licensing records don’t show any history of disciplinary action taken against the obstetrician.
But the assault in this case occurred in Columbus, Ohio, and the child’s mother reported it to county social services on June 22, and the abortion took place more than a week later, a Columbus police officer testified Wednesday—meaning that not only did the crime in question happen in another state than Indiana, but authorities in the state where it happened already knew about it.
Police arrested 27-year-old Gershon Fuentes, who reportedly confessed to raping the girl on multiple occasions. Fuentes is reportedly undocumented, and the right shifted abruptly from suggesting the story was a lie to blaming undocumented people. Rokita told Fox News Wednesday he “shouldn’t be here.”
“First of all, this is an illegal immigration issue, because—likely because Biden’s lawlessness at the border and everything going on down there,” Rokita said. “Then we have the rape, and then we have this abortion activist, acting as a doctor with a history of failing to report.”
The story first came to light when the Indianapolis Star and Columbus Dispatch reported it earlier this month, days after the Supreme Court’s decisions in Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Health Organization demolished the national right to a legal abortion enshrined in the Roe v. Wade case.
Following the decision, Ohio’s ban on abortion after six weeks kicked in, and a child abuse doctor in Ohio referred the girl to Bernard in Indiana, which still allows abortion up to 22 weeks—although the Republican-dominated legislature there is meeting later this month for a special session that will likely result in more severe restrictions.
After President Joe Biden mentioned the story during a speech announcing an executive order on abortion last week, Republicans including Yost and Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan, as well as conservative media from PJ Media and Fox News to the Wall Street Journal editorial board and National Review suggested the story was fake, partly because the 10-year-old rape victim had not been identified.
Yost, in particular, made the rounds this week to cast doubt on the story, including bragging to Watters Monday that his office had strong connections with local law enforcement around the state but had heard “not a whisper” about the case–a day before Fuentes’ arrest in the same city where Yost’s office is located. Even after Fuentes was arrested and prior to his arraignment Wednesday, Yost went on a Columbus radio show and said the story had “some serious red flags.”
Yost released a statement after the arrest praising Columbus police and saying his “heart aches for the pain suffered by this young child,” but was indignant when asked by a Cleveland’s ABC affiliate whether he should apologize.
“Apologize for what?” Yost said. “Questioning a newspaper story?”
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