A man has been accused of raping a 10-year-old Ohio girl whose case was considered questionable by some Republicans.
A state man has been charged with raping a 10-year-old girl whose case drew national attention after a doctor’s comments that the child had to travel to Indiana for an abortion, an account that had led some prominent Republicans – including Ohio’s attorney general and a congressman – to suggest it was made up.
President Joe Biden highlighted the matter last week, criticizing the US Supreme Court’s decision to repeal a nationwide right to abortion.
Gerson Fuentes, 27, who was arrested Tuesday, appeared in Franklin County, Ohio, municipal court for an arraignment on Wednesday. A police investigator testified at the hearing that Fuentes confessed to raping the girl at least twice.
The victim in the case had an abortion in neighboring Indiana on June 30, the officer said.
The detective said DNA from the Indianapolis abortion clinic was being tested to confirm paternity.
A statewide ban on abortion in Ohio after the sixth week of pregnancy — before many women know they are pregnant — came into effect just hours after the June 24 Supreme Court ruling quashing Roe v Wade, the decision from 1973 that created a constitutional right to abortion.
An Indianapolis physician who provides abortion services, Dr. Caitlin Bernard, had told The Indianapolis Star that such a child had had an abortion because the girl could not get the procedure in Ohio under a newly imposed state ban on abortion at the first detectable “fetal heartbeat.” The law has no exceptions for rape or incest. A judge lifted a ban on the ban after the US Supreme Court ruling overturned Roe v Wade.
Six-week abortions remain legal in Indiana, although the Republican-controlled state legislature is expected to consider new restrictions later this month.
Biden, a Democrat, spoke of the girl in comments to reporters about access to abortion.
“Imagine you’re that little girl – 10 years old,” he said angrily at the White House on Friday.
Biden referred to the matter when he signed an executive order to help secure access to abortion and reproductive services for women.
He called on the Justice Department to “do everything in their power to protect these women who are claiming their rights”.
The US president has said he cannot reverse the court’s decision and that the actions he can take are limited without action from Congress.
Fuentes is being held on a $2 million bond and scheduled for a preliminary hearing on July 22.
A court-appointed lawyer for Fuentes did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
In all, 26 US states have severely restricted abortions in the wake of the ruling or are expected to do so in the coming weeks and months.
Some conservatives had questioned the veracity of the Indianapolis Star story.
Ohio Republican Attorney General Dave Yost told Fox News Monday that he had heard no “whispers” from law enforcement about such a case. He told the USA TODAY Network Ohio agency on Tuesday that the details were “more likely than not a fabrication” because there had been no arrest and no evidence discovered, Ohio’s Columbus Dispatch reported.
“Another lie. Anyone surprised?” Republican US Representative Jim Jordan also tweeted in response.
But in a statement Wednesday after the arrest, Yost, who defended the state’s six-week ban in state court following the Supreme Court’s decision, said: “My heart aches for the pain this young child is suffering. I am grateful for the diligent work of the Columbus Police Department to extract a confession and get a rapist off the street.”
Also on Wednesday, Jordan tweeted that the suspect “should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law”.