Editor’s Note: After the publication of this story, police in Columbus, Ohio, charged an illegal immigrant named Gershon Fuentes with the rape of a 10-year-old girl who police say traveled Indianapolis to have an abortion. Ohio officials deny that the state’s so-called “Heartbeat law” law would have barred her from having the procedure.
President Joe Biden on Friday repeated an unverified, single-source claim made in various media outlets that a 10-year-old girl in Ohio had to travel to Indiana to receive an abortion due to the Buckeye State’s strict abortion laws.
Biden repeated the claim while signing an executive order on abortion access, using the story to insist restricting abortion is wrong. The horrifying story has been met with increasing skepticism in the absence of any corroborating report of a child rape.
“This isn’t some imagined horror,” Biden said. “It is already happening. Just last week, it was reported that a 10-year-old girl was a rape victim — 10 years old — and she was forced to have to travel out of state to Indiana to seek to terminate the pregnancy and maybe save her life.”
Ohio law bans abortion after six weeks except for in cases where the life of the mother is at risk, so the girl may actually have been able to obtain an abortion in Ohio.
But the story Biden told came from a single source, Indianapolis obstetrician-gynecologist Dr. Caitlan Bernard. Bernard told the Indianapolis Star on July 1 that she had received a phone call from a child abuse doctor in Ohio, who said they had a 10-year-old patient who needed an abortion. Bernard said the call came three days after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, which triggered an Ohio law that banned abortion after six weeks. The child in question happened to be exactly six weeks and three days pregnant, meaning her pregnancy allegedly lined up perfectly with the overturning of Roe. Bernard told the Star that the young girl traveled to Indiana to obtain an abortion.
No additional information was given, no one else has been able to verify any of Bernard’s story. The name of the alleged child abuse doctor is still unknown, the city or county where itwas alleged to have happened has not been named, and there is no confirmation anywhere that the case was reported to law enforcement or is being investigated.
Shortly after the story went viral, Bernard stopped answering questions. Previously, she readily spoke to the media advocating against abortion limits, including in stories for Politico, WFYI in Indianapolis, and WRTV Indianapolis. She was quoted in Politico on June 29 – two days after she allegedly received the phone call about the young girl – yet she apparently didn’t share the story with the outlet at that time.
Snopes tried to contact Bernard after the story went viral, but she didn’t respond, and the outlet stated it was unable “independently corroborate the abortion claim.”
Bernard has finally responded to some media outlets, including The Washington Post’s fact checker and the Daily Caller, but told both outlets she didn’t “have any information to share.”
The Post’s Glenn Kessler reached out to the Indianapolis Star reporter who published the story, but never heard back. He received a statement from Gannett, which publishes the Star, attributed to the Star’s executive editor, Bro Krift, which said: “The facts and sourcing about people crossing state lines into Indiana, including the 10-year-old girl, for abortions are clear. We have no additional comment at this time.”
The Post also reached out to child services agencies in Ohio’s most populous cities, but no officials who responded said they were aware of such a case.
The Daily Wire reached out to the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, and a spokesperson noted that allegations of child abuse are not public record, “including acknowledging whether an allegation has been made.” The spokesperson also said that Ohio has a decentralized system, meaning each county administers their child services. There are 88 counties in Ohio.
Next, The Daily Wire reached out to Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost’s office, who said the AG’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation “must be requested by a law enforcement agency or county prosecutor to investigate a potential crime,” and that it had “not been requested to assist in any investigation related to these allegations.”
Dan Tierney, spokesperson for Gov. Mike DeWine (R-OH), noted that “state agencies that assist local children’s service agencies can neither confirm nor deny an investigation unless that case leads to prosecution.” Tierney also said that DeWine “urges local authorities with information on this and similar cases to investigate, and, if evidence supports, prosecute, these cases to the fullest extent of the law.”
Ultimately, no one has been able to verify the story – or disprove it, since so few details were given. Unless a rapist is charged or someone else comes forward to verify the claim, it will remain unproven. But that won’t stop politicians from using it against their opponents.