Indiana’s Republican attorney general said Wednesday his office would investigate a doctor who provided an abortion to a 10-year-old girl who was raped and became pregnant.
Attorney General Todd Rokita appeared on Fox News to address reports the girl was forced to cross state lines from Ohio — where abortion is now illegal after about after six weeks of pregnancy — to Indiana. The story become national news after the Indianapolis Star Tribune first reported details of the case from Dr. Caitlin Bernard, who said the girl’s parents discovered she was six weeks pregnant and therefore ineligible for an abortion despite being sexually assaulted.
Bernard, an obstetrician-gynecologist in Indianapolis, told media outlets she provided care to the child after her family brought her to Indiana, where abortion is legal in the state until the 22nd week of pregnancy. Doctors there have reported an influx in patients from neighboring states after the Supreme Court’s decision striking down abortion rights.
Republicans, however, have seized on the child’s ordeal as evidence more restrictions are needed to rein in abortion access. Rokita said his office would be looking into Bernard’s conduct, and focused more on what he called an “abortion activist acting as a doctor” than on the accused child rapist.
Gerson Fuentes, 27, was arrested and charged with rape on Wednesday.
“We’re gathering the evidence as we speak, and we’re going to fight this to the end, including looking at her licensure if she failed to report. And in Indiana it’s a crime … to intentionally not report,” Rokita told Fox News host Jesse Watters on Wednesday. “This is a child, and there’s a strong public interest in understanding if someone under the age of 16 or under the age of 18, or really any woman, is having abortion in our state.”
Rokita’s office did not reply to a request to clarify his comments or explain what laws he believes Bernard may have broken.
Both Indiana and Ohio have strong requirements for reporting rape allegations and abortions, Politico noted. Ohio Attorney General David Yost told Fox News his office hadn’t heard of a case involving a 10-year-old rape victim.
Republicans and Fox News hosts initially tried to discredit the story of the 10-year-old, with The Wall Street Journal saying in an editorial that the story was “too good to confirm.”
Those claims were refuted after Fuentes was arrested and police said the timeline provided as evidence matched Bernard’s reports, The New York Times reported. (The Journal appended an editor’s note to its piece and published a separate editorial correcting the record.)
Bernard addressed the story of the girl in brief remarks on Twitter Wednesday evening, saying she was “so sad” the country was failing survivors of sexual assault.
“My heart breaks for all survivors of sexual assault and abuse,” Bernard said. “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.”
My heart breaks for all survivors of sexual assault and abuse. 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.
— Caitlin Bernard (@drcaitbernard) July 14, 2022
Abortion rights groups have warned in the weeks since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade that Republicans would seek to penalize people who cross state lines to seek an abortion, or doctors who provide them care. President Joe Biden signed an executive order last week meant to safeguard Americans in both cases.
Democrats have decried the child’s experience as evidence of the hardships Americans are already facing after the Supreme Court ruling, with Biden bringing up the girl as he signed his order last week.
“She was forced to have to travel out of the state to Indiana to seek to terminate the pregnancy and maybe save her life,” Biden said at the White House. “Ten years old — 10 years old! — raped, six weeks pregnant, already traumatized, was forced to travel to another state.”
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