Man accused of raping 10-year-old girl who traveled for abortion

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — An Ohio man has been charged with raping a 10-year-old girl whose case drew national attention following comments by a doctor that the child needed to travel to Indiana for an abortion, a story that had led some prominent Republicans — including the Ohio attorney general and a congressman — to suggest he was fabricated.

Democratic President Joe Biden highlighted the matter last week when signing an executive order seeking to protect abortion access as a state after the Republican-led state, including Ohio, enacted near-total restrictions following the recent landmark US Supreme Court decision.

A detective testified in a first court appearance for the 27-year-old suspect on Wednesday that Columbus police learned of the girl’s pregnancy after her mother alerted Franklin County Children’s 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 doctor who provides abortion services, Dr. Caitlin Bernard, told The Indianapolis Star that an abortion was scheduled for such a child because the girl could not get the procedure in Ohio in under a newly imposed state ban. on first detectable “fetal heartbeat” abortions. A judge lifted the suspension of the ban after the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision overturning Roe v. Wade.

Appearing on Fox News on Monday, Republican Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost said he hadn’t heard “a whisper” from Ohio law enforcement about any reports or arrests. in connection with such a matter.

“Another lie. Anyone surprised? Republican U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan tweeted in reaction.

Then on Wednesday, Jordan tweeted that the suspect “should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.” A message was left in his office on Wednesday seeking comment.

In the Fox interview, Yost suggested the young rape victim would have met the exception to Ohio’s “heartbeat” abortion ban 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 didn’t have to leave Ohio to find treatment,” he said. .

The law defines an emergency as life-threatening or involving a “serious risk of substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function”. By that definition, the 10-year-old’s medical condition would not have reached the threshold of an emergency, Kellie Copeland, director of Pro-Choice Ohio, a children’s rights group, said Wednesday. abortion.

In a statement Wednesday, Yost said the state Bureau of Criminal Investigations was ready to help pursue the case. He did not respond to his earlier suggestions that the case was fabricated.

Gov. Mike DeWine, a Republican, previously called the crime a tragedy. “He said that if the evidence backs it up, the rapist should spend the rest of his life in jail,” DeWine spokesman Dan Tierney said.

According to the police, the man confessed to raping the girl. He was arrested on Tuesday and has not pleaded guilty.

Court records do not specify if or how the suspect knew the girl. The prosecutor’s office declined to comment on the case, and the police department did not respond to a request for additional details. The Associated Press does not generally identify victims of sexual assault and, at this time, does not name the suspect to avoid inadvertently identifying the girl.

In 2019, the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana filed a lawsuit on behalf of Bernard, the doctor in the 10-year-old’s case, challenging a law passed by Indiana’s Republican-dominated legislature. which largely banned a second-trimester abortion procedure, which the legislation called “dismemberment abortion”.

The law first went into effect last week after a federal judge lifted an injunction blocking it, following the Supreme Court’s decision overturning Roe v. Wade.

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Associated Press writers Julie Carr Smyth, Kantele Franko and Samantha Hendrickson in Columbus, Tom Davies in Indianapolis and Sophia Tulp in New York contributed to this report.

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This story has been updated to remove a passage referring to Governor Mike DeWine facing criticism for questioning the veracity of the case; the governor’s office says DeWine made no such comments. It also corrects that Wednesday’s proceedings were a first court appearance and not an arraignment.

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