COLUMBUS, Ohio — A 27-year-old man was arrested for allegedly raping a 10-year-old girl from Ohio who later traveled to Indiana to get an abortion, confirming a story that gained national attention as a talking point for abortion rights supporters.
According to court records, 27-year-old Gerson Fuentes was arrested on Tuesday for the rape of a minor. A detective testified in Franklin County Municipal Court on Wednesday that the child had to travel to Indiana on June 30 for the procedure.
Franklin County Municipal Court records obtained by News 5 confirm the age of the victim and say that Fuentes confessed to Columbus Police that he raped the girl. The confession came after they obtained a DNA sample from him.
Court records don’t specify whether or how the suspect knew the girl. The prosecutor’s office declined to comment on the case to the Associated Press, and the police department did not respond to its request for additional details.
If convicted, Fuentes faces a maximum of life in prison. He could be deported since prosecutors say he is not a U.S. citizen.
A viral story
Democratic President Joe Biden highlighted the case last week at the signing of an executive order aimed at protecting access to abortion as state after Republican-led state, including Ohio, enacted near-total restrictions after the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent landmark ruling.
An Indianapolis physician who provides abortion services, Dr. Caitlin Bernard, had told The Indianapolis Star that an abortion had been provided for such a child because the girl couldn't get the procedure in Ohio under a newly imposed state ban on abortions at the first detectable “fetal heartbeat.” A judge lifted a stay on the ban after the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling overturning Roe v. Wade.
Story doubted by some
The 10-year-old's story, first brought to light by the Indianapolis Star, gained national attention quickly.
Earlier this week, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost, who supports the new abortion restrictions, went on Fox News to raise doubts about the story. He said he works closely with law enforcement authorities and he’d gotten “not a whisper” about the case.
“Something maybe even more telling,” he told host Jesse Watters, “is my office runs the state crime lab. Any case like this, you’re going to have a rape kit, you’re going to have biological evidence and you would be looking for DNA analysis… There is no case request for analysis that looks anything like this.”
Yost released the following statement on Wednesday about the arrest:
“My 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. Justice must be served and BCI stands ready to support law enforcement across Ohio putting these criminals behind bars.”
News 5 spoke with Yost later in the day. We pointed out that some have called for the attorney general to apologize and asked him if that was something he was prepared to do.
He said, “Apologize for what? Questioning a newspaper story?”
We said that some saw it as passing doubt on this girl’s story and her experiences.
“Remember, on Monday night we didn’t know that the girl even existed,” Yost said. “The doctor who inappropriately shot off her mouth to the press about a patient for political gain wouldn’t talk at all. And I certainly wouldn’t have wanted her to name the girl. We know nothing else about her or her condition and or her story or the crime or what happened here. The thing had gone on for quite a long time, days on end since the story had developed, and for example, the state crime labs had no requests for analysis that were consistent with this. So everything I said was true. I think it was founded on the information that we had at the time, and today I’m glad that there’s going to be justice in this case."
Gov. Mike DeWine, a Republican, previously called the crime a tragedy. "He has said that if the evidence supports, the rapist should spend the rest of his life in prison,” said DeWine spokesperson Dan Tierney.
Watch more in the player below:
Ohio's anti-abortion measures approved quickly
When Roe v. Wade was overturned, the state of Ohio implemented the "Heartbeat Bill," which does not allow abortions in the state after six weeks. Ten-year-olds who become pregnant are by definition rape victims, but Ohio’s abortion law doesn’t make exceptions for rape and incest.
Ohio immediately implemented its "Heartbeat Bill" following the overturning of Roe vs. Wade:
The impact of that decision was felt immediately.
One clinic said it turned away 90 percent of patients that first weekend:
The law defines an emergency as life-threatening or involving a “serious risk of the substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function.” Under that definition, the 10-year-old's condition wouldn't have risen to the threshold of an emergency, Kellie Copeland, director of Pro-Choice Ohio, an abortion rights group, said Wednesday.
The Associated Press contributed tom this report.
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