Conservatives tried — and failed — to cast doubt on tale of Ohio child rape victim

Charges have been filed in the case of a 10-year-old girl who fled to Indiana to receive an abortion

Published July 13, 2022 5:11PM (EDT)

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem (Brandon Bell/Getty Images)
South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem (Brandon Bell/Getty Images)

After a week of controversy surrounding right-wing fueled doubt over the story of a 10-year-old girl who had to travel from Ohio to Indiana to receive an abortion after being raped, a man from Columbus has now been charged with the crime, further confirming the story's veracity.

The story first gained traction on CNN after host Dana Bash brought the case up to Republican Gov. Kristi Noem of South Dakota. 

In the days following the overturning of Roe v. Wade, in Noem's state of South Dakota trigger laws have gone into effect banning abortions in all cases, including rape and incest, except when the mother's life is at risk.

When Bash asked Noem if the ten-year-old should have been forced to carry the child to term, Noem responded that "every single life is precious."

On Friday, at a press conference to sign an executive order attempting to protect access to reproductive health care, President Joe Biden brought up the case of the young girl. After explaining how abortion bans have already gone into effect in 13 states, many of which do not allow for expectations in the case of rape or incest, Biden recited the story of how the young girl had to cross state lines after being impregnated.

"Imagine being that little girl.  Just — I'm serious — just imagine being that little girl.  Ten years old," Biden said.

Hours after Biden shared the story, right-wing media erupted.

An article from the Daily Caller called the story's legitimacy into question. The article's author Laurel Duggan said that the gynecologist who first reported the story to the Indianapolis Star, Dr. Caitlin Bernard, could not provide enough details to thoroughly verify the story.

"Bernard's account did not mention specifics such as the name of the young patient's doctor, any of the towns where these events took place, whether charges were being pressed against the child's alleged rapist and at what point, if at all, Bernard or the child abuse doctor contacted the authorities regarding the individual who had impregnated the 10-year-old," Duggan wrote.

After the article was published, Fox News, the New York Post, and The Wall Street Journal all piled on.

"All kinds of fanciful tales travel far on social media these days, but you don't expect them to get a hearing at the White House. That's nonetheless what seems to have happened Friday as President Biden signed an executive order on abortion," the Wall Street Journal wrote in an editorial titled "An Abortion Story Too Good to Confirm."

"A week ago, @DanaBashCNN tried to trap me with a story about a 10-year old girl who got an abortion….Now it looks like the story was fake to begin with. Literal #FakeNews from the liberal media," Noem followed up on her original statement in a tweet.

On Monday, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost went on Fox News to discuss how the story was likely untrue. Yost said there is "not a whisper anywhere" about the 10-year-old child's rape case from the law enforcement and prosecutors in the state.

Further, Fox News host Emily Compagno criticized Biden and the "sensationalist physician who has now gone dark."

"What I find so deeply offensive, is that they had to make up a fake one," Compagno said.

The House Judicary committee even retweeted Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan suggesting the story was a lie. 


But reporting now confirms that the story was true all along.

Around noon on Wednesday, Columbus Dispatch reporter Bethany Bruner published an article confirming that Gershon Fuentes, an undocumented man living in the Columbus area, had been charged with the rape of the 10-year-old girl. The crime is a first-degree felony in Ohio.

Bruner noted on Twitter that she was the only reporter in the courtroom covering the story.

After news broke Wednesday of an arrest confirming the case, Yost issued a short statement. "We rejoice anytime a child rapist is taken off the streets," he said.

The White House responded by chiding right-wing media's incredulity. 

While the young girl was able to cross state lines to receive her abortion in Indiana, this will most likely not be a possibility in the coming months. Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb, R-IN, has called a special session to take place on July 25 to make decisions surrounding the outlawing of abortion. Currently, Republicans hold a supermajority in both chambers of the General Assembly and are eager to enact new restrictions.

By Abigail Goldberg-Zelizer

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Abortion Aggregate Daily Caller Fox News Indiana New York Post Ohio Right-wing Media Wall Street Journal