An Ohio man has been charged in the rape of a 10-year-old girl who had to travel to Indiana to undergo an abortion, a case that’s been decried by President Biden in the days since the story garnered international attention.
Columbus Police Detective Jeffrey Huhn testified that the arrest was made after a referral from Franklin County Children Services, which had been in touch with the girl’s mother on June 22, according to video of the arraignment from WXIN — two days before the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. The girl had an abortion at an Indianapolis clinic on June 30, Huhn said.
The detective added that Fuentes’s DNA is being tested to confirm that he was the father to the aborted fetus, according to video of the hearing.
If convicted, Fuentes could face life in prison.
Neither Clark Torbett, Fuentes’s attorney with the Franklin County Public Defender’s Office, nor a representative with Franklin County Children’s Services immediately responded to requests for comment Wednesday. Assistant Franklin County Prosecutor Dan Meyer told The Washington Post that the office’s policy “is to not comment on ongoing investigations.”
The story of the 10-year-old victim was first made public by Caitlin Bernard, an Indianapolis physician who provides abortions. In an Indianapolis Star article published July 1, Bernard said that she had been called by a doctor in Ohio about a 10-year-old patient who was six weeks and three days pregnant.
The girl had to travel to Indiana for her procedure because abortions are now banned in Ohio after six weeks. Ohio was among the 13 states with “trigger bans” designed to take effect once Roe was struck down. Since the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision, Ohio has imposed a ban on abortions after six weeks of pregnancy, with no exceptions for rape and incest. While performing an abortion after six weeks remains legal in Indiana, lawmakers are expected to meet this month to consider further abortion restrictions.
The story quickly received international attention. In impassioned remarks on the future of abortion, Biden expressed outrage over the reported case. “She was forced to have to travel out of the state to Indiana to seek to terminate the pregnancy and maybe save her life,” Biden said at the White House last week. “Ten years old — 10 years old! — raped, six weeks pregnant, already traumatized, was forced to travel to another state.”
But the story also drew some skepticism because the doctor who offered the testimony gave no corroborating details and reporters who tried to find a criminal complaint linked to the alleged rape came up empty. Republicans — including Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost and Rep. Jim Jordan — soon seized on the information vacuum, accusing critics of the Dobbs decision of weaponizing an unproven rumor.
In a Tuesday evening op-ed titled, “An Abortion Story Too Good to Confirm,” the Wall Street Journal’s editorial board criticized Biden for giving his “presidential seal of approval on an unlikely story from a biased source that neatly fits the progressive narrative but can’t be confirmed.”
“The abortion debate is intense and passions run high,” the Journal’s editorial board wrote. “But the American people deserve better from their President than an unproven story designed to aggravate those passions.” On Wednesday, the editorial was updated with an editor’s note on Fuentes’s arrest.
Earlier in the week, Yost told Fox News host Jesse Watters that his office had heard “not a whisper” about the reported case of the 10-year-old victim. “We have regular contact with prosecutors and local police and sheriffs — not a whisper anywhere,” Yost said on Monday.
The attorney general doubled down to the USA Today network on Tuesday, saying, “Every day that goes by the more likely that this is a fabrication.”
Bernard, the doctor who first brought the story forward, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. When asked earlier in the week if there was a way to help corroborate her account of the 10-year-old, she declined, saying, “the things you’re asking for are HIPAA violations.”
“I am not going to put anyone else in Fox’s line of fire,” she wrote in a text message to The Post.
BREAKING: Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost says there is "not a whisper" that a 10-year-old child was raped and impregnated, there has been no request for crime lab results, and that Ohio's heartbeat law would have allowed such a young girl to get an abortion in the state. pic.twitter.com/oIhJzNiq52— Greg Price (@greg_price11) July 11, 2022
Yost initially issued a one-sentence statement when the arrest was announced Wednesday: “We rejoice anytime a child rapist is taken off the streets.” Yost expanded on the news in a statement to The Post.
“My heart aches for the pain suffered by this young child. I am grateful for the diligent work of the Columbus Police Department in securing a confession and getting a rapist off the street,” he said. “Justice must be served and BCI stands ready to support law enforcement across Ohio putting these criminals behind bars.”
The statement did not address his earlier remarks.
Jordan, who called the story a “lie” on Tuesday in a tweet that has since been deleted, joined Yost in praising the arrest.
“Gershon Fuentes should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” the congressman wrote. Jordan also did not address his previous remarks about the case being a “lie.”
Abortions performed on patients younger than 15 in the country are extremely rare. In 2019, 0.2 percent of reported abortions were performed on patients that young, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Huhn testified Wednesday that Fuentes admitted to detectives, through an interpreter, that he had sexual contact with the girl. The detective added that the girl also identified Fuentes as the man who impregnated her.
During the arraignment hearing, Meyer, the prosecutor, noted that the girl had only recently turned 10, the Dispatch reported — meaning she may have been 9 at the time she was raped and became impregnated.
Roe v. Wade and abortion access in America
What happens next?: The legality of abortion will be left to individual states. That likely will mean 52 percent of women of childbearing age would face new abortion limits. Thirteen states with “trigger bans” will ban abortion within 30 days. Several other states where recent antiabortion legislation has been blocked by the courts are expected to act next.
State legislation: As Republican-led states move to restrict abortion, The Post is tracking legislation across the country on 15-week bans, Texas-style bans, trigger laws and abortion pill bans, as well as Democratic-dominated states that are moving to protect abortion rights enshrined in Roe v. Wade.
How our readers feel: In the hours that followed the ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, Washington Post readers responded in droves to a callout asking how they felt — and why.