Before he questioned a news report of a 10-year-old rape victim being forced to go out of state for an abortion, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost should have at least checked the logs at Columbus Police Headquarters six blocks from his office.
The Columbus Police Department is the biggest in Ohio. And its jurisdiction is both the state capitol and the seat of Franklin County, which year after year reports the highest number of sexual assaults on children 14 and under.
So logic, as well as proximity, should have made the Columbus cops among the very first Yost sought out. A quick look in the most obvious place could have put an immediate end to a huge issue that would see not just the usual crazies but also the The Wall Street Journal editorial board end up calling into question an absolutely true account. The answer to the question of what would happen if a child became pregnant by rape under Ohio’s new law proved to be this:
The foremost law enforcement officer in the state would lead a chorus saying it likely never happened.
“We have regular contact with prosecutors and local police and sheriffs—not a whisper anywhere,” Yost told Fox News on Monday.
That was 11 days after the Indianapolis Star reported that Dr. Caitlin Bernard of Indiana had performed an abortion for a 10-year-old rape victim from Ohio who could not legally terminate the pregnancy in the child's home state. And three days after Biden spoke passionately about the case at the White House, saying, “She was forced to have to travel out of the state to Indiana to seek to terminate the pregnancy and maybe save her life. Ten years old—ten years old!—raped, six weeks pregnant, already traumatized, was forced to travel to another state.”
But Yost had still not taken the few minutes he would have needed to determine that the Columbus police had indeed received a report of a 10-year-old rape victim in the same time frame reported by the newspaper. He instead amplified his doubts in an interview with USA Today’s Ohio Bureau.
“Every day that goes by, the more likely that this is a fabrication,” he said on Tuesday. “I’m not saying it could not have happened. What I’m saying to you is there is not a damn scintilla of evidence. And shame on the Indianapolis paper that ran this thing on a single source who has an obvious ax to grind.”
The single source being the doctor, Bernard, who in 2019 filed suit in federal court against a new Ohio law restricting abortions, successfully arguing that it violated Roe v. Wade. Then, as now, “Yost voiced opposition to abortion in any form and was undeterred by news reports in May of 2019 that the new law would have precluded a pregnant 11-year-old from opting not to have the 27-year-old man arrested—and later convicted—for repeatedly raping her. Yost simply quoted what he had said right after the law was signed the month before.
"Sometimes, the evolution of the law requires bold steps,” he repeated, as if saying it once were not bad enough.
But, incredibly, the confirmed reports of a pregnant 11-year-old rape victim in 2019 did not keep Yost and others from recklessly casting doubt on the report of a 10-year-old pregnant rape victim this month.
Then, early Wednesday morning, the Ohio Capital Journal reported that it had reviewed the Columbus Police Department’s recent records.
As Yost could have easily determined a fortnight before, the Journal found, “A review of the city’s police log since March 15 uncovered 59 reports of sexual assaults of girls 15 and younger that, based on the information available, could have resulted in pregnancy.”
The Journal added, “At least one involved a 10-year-old victim,” but was careful to note that this did not mean the girl was the one who had been forced to seek an abortion in Indiana.
That was established a short time later on Wednesday, when the Columbus police announced the arrest of 27-year-old Gerson Fuentes for the rape of a 10-year-old child. Fuentes appeared in Franklin County Court, the jurisdiction that has long reported the most child rape cases in Ohio; 52 last year, as many as 130 in 2012.
At the arraignment the prosecutor asked Det. Jeffrey Huhn how the case had come to the attention of the authorities on June 22.
“The mother of the victim,” Huhn replied.
“And what did she indicate?” the prosecutor asked.
“She indicated that her 10-year-old daughter was pregnant,” Huhn said.
“At the time was the daughter still pregnant?” the prosecutor asked.
“Yes,” Huhn said.
“Is that daughter still pregnant today?”
“The victim went to another state to have a medically terminated preg…”
Huhn had begun to say “pregnant,” but caught himself.
In the aftermath, Yost tried to pass himself off as the victim’s champion.
“My heart aches for the pain suffered by this young child,” he declared in a statement.
He praised the cops he had not bothered to consult.
“I am grateful for the diligent work of the Columbus Police Department in securing a confession and getting a rapist off the street.”
Neither Yost nor the various right-wing pundits and politicians who joined him in suggesting the crime never happened offered an apology for having further victimized the family of a 10-year-old who had been impregnated while being repeatedly raped. They also expressed no regrets for having questioned the integrity of a dedicated physician who is also known for her work on reproductive health and HIV in Kenya.
Like Yost, Dr. Caitlin Bernard spoke of her heart. But she is somebody who actually has one.
“My heart breaks for all survivors of sexual assault and abuse,” she tweeted. “I am so sad that our country is failing them when they need us most. Doctors must be able to give people the medical care they need, when and where they need it.”