Figuring out where to draw the line when it comes to abortion restrictions is messy, and Ohio doctors say the case of a 10-year-old Ohio rape victim shows why those decisions should be left to patients.
A 10-year-old Ohio girl was forced to travel to Indiana for a legal abortion in June after Ohio’s so-called heartbeat abortion ban went into effect.
The law prohibits doctors from performing the procedure when cardiac activity can be detected, which is usually possible around six weeks’ gestation. The law allows for some exceptions, such as the life of the mother, but things like rape, incest and mental health are not included.
Readmore:Ending abortion access may widen public health inequalities for Black women, poor Ohioans
While it’s possible for some 10-year-olds to carry a pregnancy to term, the mental trauma of forcing a child to carry and deliver a rapist’s baby could last a lifetime. It’s likely to lead to life-threatening struggles with issues like addiction or suicide, doctors told The Dispatch.
In fact, children who suffer sexual abuse may be 10 to 13 times more likely to attempt suicide, according to a 2001 study of 183 children shared with the National Institutes of Health.
Legislators and voters should consider the mental “anguish” women and girls will be forced to endure if they can’t abort a rapist’s baby, said Dr. Amy Burkett, a legislative chairperson of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
“We need to think about how this kind of trauma is going to affect in particular someone this young but really any woman who is forced to carry a pregnancy due to a rape or travel to another state for an abortion,” Burkett said.
Childhood abortions are procedures people historically haven’t discussed publicly, said Dr. Marcela Azevedo, a critical care physician and pediatrician who serves as codirector of the advocacy group Ohio Physicians for Reproductive Rights. But Azevedo expects more stories similar to the 10-year-old’s will emerge as Ohio and other states tighten abortion restrictions.
Cases of rape, sexual assault and abortions for minors aren’t uncommon in Ohio, data shows
In 2020, 52 people younger than 15 received an abortion in Ohio, while 469 people ages 15 to 17 got one, for a total of 521 minors, according to a report from the Ohio Department of Health. That number has been on the decline since 2010, when 1,682 abortions were provided to Ohioans younger than 18.
Before serving on the Ohio Supreme Court, Democrat Yvette McGee Brown founded and led the Center for Child and Family Advocacy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. Since renamed the Center for Family Safety and Healing, it offers a variety of inpatient and outpatient services to victimized children, including counseling.
Readmore:Do 10-year-olds meet ‘life of mother’ abortion exemptions? Ohio lawmakers, doctors divided
McGee Brown said that during her time at the center, she saw an average of 1,400 children a year who were victims of sexual abuse, 40% of whom were younger than 7.
“There are some depraved people in this world, and her little body isn’t even fully formed, so she’s had trauma not only physically, but emotionally,” McGee Brown said of the 10-year-old’s rape and abortion. “The key for her to have a successful adulthood is for her to deal with the trauma that she’s been through.”
Story of 10-year-old Ohio girl who sought an abortion in Indiana draws national attention
The 10-year-old Ohioan’s story drew national attention, including from Ohio Republicans who openly questioned the story first reported by The Indianapolis Star since no arrest had been made.
Then, on Wednesday, The Dispatch broke the news that police arrested Gerson Fuentes, 27, of Columbus, on suspicion of raping the girl, ultimately confirming the story.
Earlier in the week, Attorney General Dave Yost said that as time went by without an arrest in the case, it became “more likely that this is a fabrication.” He also said there had not been “a damn scintilla of evidence.”
On Fox News, Yost also said that Ohio’s law allows an exception for a medical emergency and “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.”
Readmore:Capitol Insider: Jim Jordan deletes tweet calling rape story of 10-year-old ‘Another lie’
US Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Urbana, posted on Twitter calling a news report about the 10-year-old’s story “another lie.” I later deleted the tweet.
Burkett hopes the child has been shielded from the people who have cast doubt on her rape.
Still, the 10-year-old was victimized multiple times, Burkett and Azevedo said. The first time was when Fuentes assaulted her, and the second was when she became a political target.
“She cannot get her medical care at home,” Azevedo said. “Now it’s broadcast on national television that the people who represent her de ella and are supposed to keep her safe tried to make light of it by implying that ella she could get de ella (an abortion) in Ohio.… She absolutely could not. “
Dispatch reporter Eric Lagatta contributed to this story.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism