An Ohio man has been charged with raping a 10-year-old girl whose case drew national attention following a doctor’s comments that the child had to travel to Indiana for an abortion.
The doctor’s account had led some prominent Republicans — including Ohio’s attorney general and a congressman — to suggest it was fabricated.
President Joe Biden highlighted the case last week at the signing of an executive order aimed at protecting access to abortion after Republican-led state, including Ohio, enacted near-total restrictions following the US Supreme Court’s recent landmark ruling.
A detective testified on Wednesday at an initial court appearance for the 27-year-old suspect that Columbus police learned about the girl’s pregnancy after her mother alerted Franklin County Children Services on June 22, The Columbus Dispatch reported. The detective said the girl had an abortion in Indianapolis on June 30.
The detective said DNA from the Indianapolis abortion clinic was being tested to confirm paternity.
An Indianapolis physician who provides abortion services, Dr Caitlin Bernard, had told The Indianapolis Star that an abortion had been provided for such a child because she could not get the procedure in Ohio under a newly imposed state ban on abortions at the first detectable “fetal heartbeat”. A judge lifted a stay on the ban after the US Supreme Court’s ruling overturning Roe v Wade.
Appearing Monday on Fox News, Republican Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost said he hadn’t heard “a whisper” from law enforcement in Ohio about any reports or arrests made in connection with such a case.
“Another lie. Anyone surprised?” Republican Jim Jordan tweeted in reaction.
Then on Wednesday, Mr Jordan tweeted that the suspect “should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law”. A message was left with his office on Wednesday seeking comment.
In the Fox interview, Mr Yost suggested that the young rape victim would have met the Ohio “heartbeat” abortion ban’s exception for medical emergencies.
“This young girl, if she exists and if this horrible thing happened to her — it breaks my heart to think about it — she did not have to leave Ohio to find treatment,” he said.
The law defines an emergency as life-threatening or involving a “serious risk of the substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function”. Under that definition, the 10-year-old’s condition wouldn’t have risen to the threshold of an emergency, Kellie Copeland, director of Pro-Choice Ohio, an abortion rights group, said on Wednesday.
In a statement on Wednesday, Mr Yost said the state Bureau of Criminal Investigation stands ready to help prosecute the case. He did not address his previous suggestions that the case was fabricated.
Governor Mike DeWine, a Republican, previously called the crime a tragedy. “He has said that if the evidence supports, the rapist should spend the rest of his life in prison,” said governor spokesperson Dan Tierney.
Police say the man confessed to raping the girl. He was arrested on Tuesday and has not entered a plea.