The sad case of the 10-year-old Ohio girl who sought an abortion. Plus, 'Get Trump!' renewed.
By Gary Abernathy
On jumping to conclusions before facts are better known
It’s well documented that most journalists occupy the left flank of the political spectrum, so it’s never surprising when the vast majority of headlines, stories and commentary tear into conservative philosophies. The U.S. Supreme Court’s recent rulings on numerous hot-button cases — from guns to public prayer to limits on the power of government agencies to abortion — have been in line with conservative judicial tenets, and so naturally the mainstream media world has experienced multiple conniption fits.
The abortion ruling — which overturned Roe v. Wade and rightfully sent the abortion issue to the states to decide individually — resulted in the usual accusatory arguments from the left. Whenever abortion is discussed, the left always lands on two or three predictable claims.
First, they claim that the pro-life movement doesn’t care about children after they’re born, implying that once unwanted babies come into the world, pro-lifers couldn’t care less whether they’re clothed, fed or loved. This is complete nonsense since, for decades, most pro-life organizations have either operated themselves, or are closely aligned with, organizations which provide counseling, diapers, formula and many other forms of assistance to new moms, dads and their babies. But that’s doesn’t deter the talking point from being employed.
Second, the pro-choice side — and I do give them the courtesy of using the phrase “pro-choice” rather than “pro-abortion,” even though the only “choice” they seem to worry about and fight for is the choice to have an abortion — always resorts immediately to invoking the worst-case scenarios involving rape or incest, or both. “What about rape or incest?” they cry.
Others before me have noted that despite their focus on such cases, the pro-choice side is never willing to make this deal: Let’s agree that abortion will remain legal for anyone who is a victim of rape or incest, but all other abortions are illegal. I’ve proposed that — hypothetically, of course, since no one has made me dictator and it would take legislative action to actually do it — and never had a pro-choice person agree to it. They stop and say, “Well, no, I, uh…” And that’s it. Because even though the tragic cases of rape or incest are what they use to put pro-lifers on the spot, elective abortions not related to rape or incest constitute the vast majority of abortions, and most pro-choicers think abortion should be legal for everyone for any reason — and many don’t even support a ban on late-term abortions.
But they employ the rape or incest argument even more when they can use the example of a young girl becoming pregnant. Which brings us to the case of the 10-year-old Ohio girl who had to travel “out of state” or “across state lines” to get an abortion.
This story first arose on July 1 in the Indianapolis Star, as follows:
On Monday three days after the Supreme Court issued its groundbreaking decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, Dr. Caitlin Bernard, an Indianapolis obstetrician-gynecologist, took a call from a colleague, a child abuse doctor in Ohio.
Hours after the Supreme Court action, the Buckeye state had outlawed any abortion after six weeks. Now this doctor had a 10-year-old patient in the office who was six weeks and three days pregnant.
Could Bernard help?
Indiana lawmakers are poised to further restrict or ban abortion in mere weeks. The Indiana General Assembly will convene in a special session July 25 when it will discuss restrictions to abortion policy along with inflation relief.
But for now, the procedure still is legal here. And so the girl soon was on her way to Indiana to Bernard's care.
The left grabbed this story like a loose football on the one-yard line and scrambled for the end zone. It was pure gold — the “heartlessness” of the Ohio law and the little girl who had to travel “across state lines” to end a pregnancy.
The whole “across state lines” phrase is a hook the media trots out to make something sound either ominous or treacherous. It was used a lot in the Kyle Rittenhouse case, when Rittenhouse traveled “across state lines” to Kenosha, Wisc. At first it was often, and wrongly, reported that he brought a gun “across state lines.” It was proven he did not. But in fact, he literally lived right across the state line from Kenosha in Antioch, Ill. He made the trip all the time. Kenosha was a second home to him. It was a 20-minute drive. But reporting that he “crossed state lines” to patrol Kenosha with a semi-automatic rifle made him sound more villainous.
And so, the 10-year-old girl having to “cross state lines” to get an abortion made it sound as though it was akin to climbing Mount Everest. Indianapolis is about 90 to 100 miles from the Ohio border, and you travel on good highways. Most people can make the trip in under two hours, but of course it can be further depending on where you’re starting from in the Buckeye State.
Nevertheless, as the Washington Post later reported:
The story quickly caught fire, becoming a headline in newspapers around the world. News organizations increasingly “aggregate” — or repackage — reporting from elsewhere if it appears of interest to readers…
…On CNN’s Sunday interview show on July 3, South Dakota Gov. Kristi L. Noem was pressed about the story. Noem, a Republican who opposes abortion rights, said the story was “tragic” and the focus should be on the rapist. “As much as we can talk about what we can do for that little girl, I think we also need to be addressing those sick individuals that do this to our children,” she said.
President Biden had to weigh in, saying, “This isn’t some imagined horror. It is already happening. Just last week, it was reported that a 10-year-old girl was a rape victim — 10 years old — and she was forced to have to travel out of state to Indiana to seek to terminate the pregnancy and maybe save her life.”
In Ohio, Gov. Mike DeWine — long a staunch pro-lifer who had just signed Ohio’s “heartbeat bill” effectively prohibiting abortions after six weeks except for the life of the mother and a few specific lasting health dangers — was pressed about the case, with reporters basically mocking him.
The Ohio Capital Journal reported it this way — in a news story, not a piece labeled opinion:
It appears that a 10-year-old rape victim had to leave Ohio for an abortion. But Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine isn’t commenting on the fact that a law he signed making that necessary if she didn’t want to become a mother.
Shortly after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v Wade and cleared the way for the law to take effect, the child was on her way to Indiana for an abortion because she couldn’t get one in Ohio, an Indianapolis OB-GYN told the Indianapolis Star. The doctor, Caitlin Bernard, told the paper that an Ohio child-abuse doctor had called, saying the child was six weeks and three days pregnant and needed help.
That was three days after the six-week limit the DeWine-signed law places on abortion in Ohio. It makes no exceptions for women and children who are victims of rape and incest.
There was so much wrong with that. But we’ll get to that.
The Washington Post fact-checked the Indianapolis Star story and reported this:
The only source cited for the anecdote was Bernard. She’s on the record, but there is no indication that the newspaper made other attempts to confirm her account. The story’s lead reporter, Shari Rudavsky, did not respond to a query asking whether additional sourcing was obtained. A Gannett spokeswoman provided a comment from Bro Krift, the newspaper’s executive editor: “The facts and sourcing about people crossing state lines into Indiana, including the 10-year-old girl, for abortions are clear. We have no additional comment at this time.”
The story quickly caught fire, becoming a headline in newspapers around the world. News organizations increasingly “aggregate” — or repackage — reporting from elsewhere if it appears of interest to readers. So Bernard remained the only source — and other news organizations did not follow up to confirm her account…
…Under Ohio law, a physician, as a mandated reporter under Ohio Revised Code 2151.421, would be required to report any case of known or suspected physical, sexual or emotional abuse or neglect of a child to their local child welfare or law enforcement agency. So Bernard’s colleague would have had to make such a report to law enforcement at the same time he or she contacted Bernard. Presumably then a criminal case would have been opened.
My first thought after learning about this story was that even if true, a 10-year-old girl would almost certainly qualify for Ohio’s “life of the mother” exception, or one of the serious health threat exceptions that are part of the new law. That was eventually confirmed in an interview by Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost.
“Ohio’s Heartbeat law has a medical emergency exception, broader than just the life of the mother,” said Yost. “This young girl, if she exists and if this horrible thing actually happened to her – it breaks my heart to think about it – she did not have to leave Ohio to find treatment.”
Later, Fox News confirmed part of the story involving the child, but as it did since the beginning, the case raises numerous questions about why the girl was taken out of state, and the ethics of revealing any details about her case in the first place.
Fox News is corroborating elements of a report about a 10-year-old child rape victim in Ohio who crossed state lines to receive an abortion — although it is still unclear if she did so because of restrictive state laws passed after the Supreme Court ruled to overturn Roe v. Wade or if she was referred by her doctor to an expert in a different state…
…Fox News reporter Aishah Hasnie cited a familiar source who said a young girl from Ohio, who has not been identified, did indeed cross state lines to receive an abortion in Indiana. The journalist also said she was able to confirm that the Indiana doctor who initially shared the story of the girl, Caitlin Bernard, now faces a privacy law violation filed by her employer.
“What is still unclear tonight is whether this girl was forced to cross state lines as the president alleged or was she simply referred to an expert in a different state,” Hasnie told Fox News’s Brett Baier on Tuesday.
Then, mid-day on Wednesday, the Columbus Dispatch reported that “a Columbus man has been charged with impregnating a 10-year-old Ohio girl, whose travel to Indiana to seek an abortion led to international attention following the Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v Wade and activation of Ohio's abortion law.”
Gershon Fuentes, 27, whose last known address was an apartment on Columbus' Northwest Side, was arrested Tuesday after police say he confessed to raping the child on at least two occasions. He's since been charged with rape, a felony of the first degree in Ohio.
Columbus police were made aware of the girl's pregnancy through a referral by Franklin County Children Services that was made by her mother on June 22, Det. Jeffrey Huhn testified Wednesday morning at Fuentes' arraignment. On June 30, the girl underwent a medical abortion in Indianapolis, Huhn said.
And so, finally, the story appears to have been confirmed and reported as it should have been before it ever made the news in the first place. Relying on one-source stories to reach outlandish and unsupported conclusions, make accusatory comments and put politicians on the spot is a practice common on social media, but when experienced journalists fall prey to it, it violates their own standards and reveals their own biases. Even though the gist of the story appears now to be confirmed, so many questions were unanswered that it never should have seen print, broadcast or digital posting without the questions being asked and answers being provided.
As Mark Weaver, a former Ohio deputy attorney general, legal commentator and crisis communications expert, tweeted, “I remember when J school taught: ‘If your mother says she loves you, check it out.’” That standard is increasingly outdated, to the detriment of good journalism.
As many have noted, what matters is the 10-year-old child involved in this case. Her situation should never have been used as a political football, especially by the very people she turned to for assistance. The little girl has experienced severe trauma. She deserves her privacy and our prayers — and punishment for her rapist — and that’s it.
Abortion is a controversial, divisive and difficult issue. As someone who is pro-life, I’m happy that the law is increasingly recognizing that abortion involves a separate human being deserving of constitutional protections. But I also recognize that there are indeed difficult situations that make childbirth an emotional, heart-wrenching and even dangerous event. It’s one issue which will forever divide people, because both sides feel so strongly about it and are convinced they’re on the side of what’s right.
But finding and using cases like this one — or inventing hypotheticals to put people on the spot, condemn their philosophy or ridicule them for their answers — advances nothing, and leads to further animosity and ill will. As with all things, treating each other with respect, despite our different outlooks and opinions, is crucial to living in a civil society.
Review: Season One, Episode Seven of ‘Get Trump'!’
Tuesday saw the drop of Season One, Episode Seven of “Get Trump!” starring Bennie Thompson and Liz Cheney, with occasional guest appearances by other members of the Jan. 6 select committee. The ratings have been mediocre, especially considering how many stations are carrying the hearings, but the committee seems determined to renew itself endlessly.
I honestly felt sorry for the two live witnesses who were paraded before the cameras on Tuesday. They were used by the committee purely to score political points. One witness had absolutely no connection to Jan. 6 at all, and the other poor guy had the look of a deer caught in the headlights. Part of the sermonizing by committee members following the latter witness’s testimony accused Trump supporters of falling victim to his lies — once again trotting out the insulting assertion that Trump voters are basically idiots susceptible to his Svengali spell. The condescension was odorous.
That’s why Trump supporters are tuning out in droves. They’re tired of being insulted and done with spectacles like this one masquerading as “hearings.” Committee members can’t sneeze unless it’s written on a teleprompter. What’s worse are media outlets treating old news as new information.
The two Republicans on the committee, Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger, must be amazed at the coverage they get these days. Throughout their careers, like most Republicans, they had to work hard for favorable stories in the mainstream media. They’ve discovered to their delight that by partnering with a committee run by and dominated by Democrats and, especially, since turning against Trump, good press falls from the sky like showers in April.
As she loves to do, Liz ended the hearing with one of her patented “bombshell” announcements, saying that Trump had attempted to call a witness who has not yet been announced. She basically accused Trump of witness tampering, and said it was being referred to the Justice Department. If the witness has not been announced, maybe Trump didn’t know he was calling a witness. Maybe he butt dialed. Maybe someone else was calling from his phone.
It probably would have been better to take the call and see if he was trying to intimidate. Who knows, maybe he left a threatening voicemail. Hard to imagine that an unanswered phone call will, in and of itself, constitute witness tampering, but this committee is not exactly guided by any rules of fairness or precedent, since there’s never been such a scripted production in the history of congressional hearings.
In my latest Washington Post column, I note:
Despite breathless previews of coming attractions, little has changed since the hearings began beyond what was already established: By insisting against all credible evidence that the 2020 presidential election was fraudulent, President Donald Trump incited the Capitol riot, dangerously directed his anger toward his own vice president and, most damning of all, refused to participate in the peaceful transfer of power on Jan. 20, 2021.
But the effort to connect Trump to some grand conspiracy involving a shadowy network of fanatical backyard warriors and armchair militants is a bridge too far. It risks making him seem a victim of this overzealous and partisan committee, as evidenced by a new New York Times/Siena College poll showing Trump in a virtual dead heat with President Biden in a hypothetical 2024 rematch — a reality check in the midst of these “bombshell” hearings.
I also point out that the committee is severely hurt by its selective use of video testimony and soundbites. It picks and chooses to the point of being suspicious, especially by refusing to point out that at one point, Trump did tell people to go “peacefully” to the Capitol.
Of all the Trump tweets and sound bites routinely rolled out by the committee, it’s revealing that this part of Trump’s address to the Ellipse crowd on Jan. 6, 2021, is never presented: “I know that everyone here will soon be marching over to the Capitol building to peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard.” On Tuesday, Trump’s replayed remarks were abruptly clipped just before he delivered that line once again. Why? Because Trump’s call to march peacefully to the Capitol undermines the narrative. Likewise, the sloppily edited video testimony of others is suspiciously clipped, sometimes midsentence. Someday, it will be informative to watch it in toto.
On Wednesday morning, Hoppy Kercheval and I had a friendly but spirited discussion about the Jan. 6 committee hearings on his “Talkline” show. He likes the committee more than I do. You can check it out here.
Sign up or share this newsletter
Please sign up to receive this newsletter directly into your inbox or, if you are already a subscriber and reading this by email, share with a friend using the convenient button below. Thank you.