A man has been arrested for the rape of a 10-year-old girl in Ohio who, due to the state's restrictive abortion laws, traveled to Indiana to end the pregnancy, officials said.
The case, which was first reported by the Indianapolis Star, sprang to national attention in the wake of Roe v. Wade being overturned. President Joe Biden referenced it in a speech Friday, highlighting it as an example of the grim consequences that accompany abortion bans.
"Ten years old. Raped, six weeks pregnant. Already traumatized. Was forced to travel to another state," Biden said. "Just imagine being that little girl. Ten years old."
On Monday, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost appeared on Fox News, where he suggested the young girl's story was a political hoax, saying he had heard "not a whisper" about it.
"I know our prosecutors and cops in this state — there’s not one of them that wouldn’t be turning over every rock in their jurisdiction if they had the slightest of hint that this occurred there," said the Republican leader, who within hours of the Supreme Court decision enacted a ban on abortions after six weeks.
Despite Yost's flat dismissal of the story, an arrest was made Tuesday. Gerson Fuentes, 27, has been charged with the rape of a victim younger than 13, court records show.
According to the Columbus Dispatch, police said Fuentes confessed to raping the young girl at least twice. An officer who reportedly testified at the arraignment on Wednesday said police were alerted to the incident after the 10-year-old's mother reported it to child services on June 22, just over a week before she had an abortion in Indiana on June 30.
In a statement following the arrest, Yost said his "heart aches for the pain suffered by this young child."
"I am grateful for the diligent work of the Columbus Police Department in securing a confession and getting a rapist off the street," Yost said.
Yost, however, did not apologize or otherwise comment on his earlier remarks casting doubt on the case.
In the Fox News interview, he also claimed the 10-year-old legally would have been able to get an abortion in Ohio.
"Ohio’s heartbeat law has a medical emergency exception broader than just the life of the mother," he said. "This young girl — if she exists and if this horrible thing actually happened to her, breaks my heart to think about it — she did not have to leave Ohio to find treatment."
It is not clear whether Yost's claim is accurate, and a spokesperson in his office did not immediately respond to a request for comment asking for clarification. Under current state law, abortions are illegal once fetal cardiac activity is detected, which typically occurs after about six weeks of pregnancy. No exceptions are made for cases of rape or incest.
The "medical emergency" exception Yost pointed to is not clearly defined, largely leaving it up to the "physician's good faith medical judgment" whether an abortion is necessary to "prevent the death of the pregnant woman or to avoid a serious risk of the substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function of the pregnant woman."
Threats to a patient's mental health do not qualify as an example of a "serious risk" that would allow for an abortion, the law states.