Conservatives Respond to Child Rape Arrest by Vilifying Doctors - Rolling Stone
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Conservatives Respond to Child Rape Arrest by Vilifying the Doctors Who Cared For Her

Todd Rokita, Indiana’s Republican attorney general, is trying to smear a doctor for not reporting an abortion given to a 10-year-old who was raped. The doctor did, however, report it

FILE - In this Sept. 16, 2020 file photo, Republican attorney general candidate Todd Rokita speaks during a news conference in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings, File)FILE - In this Sept. 16, 2020 file photo, Republican attorney general candidate Todd Rokita speaks during a news conference in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings, File)

Todd Rokita speaks during a news conference in Indianapolis.

Darron Cummings/AP

Following the arrest of a man for allegedly raping and impregnating a 10-year-old girl, conservatives are attacking the doctor who treated her for allegedly not reporting the procedure. The Indiana Star reported on Thursday, however, that Dr. Caitlin Bernard did report the procedure. Conservatives simply didn’t bother to actually check up on it before waging their smear campaign, just as they didn’t bother to check up on the facts behind the 10-year-old’s rape and subsequent abortion before alleging it was fake news.

Todd Rokita, Indiana’s Republican attorney general, announced Wednesday night on Fox News that his office is investigating Bernard, the Indiana doctor who provided abortion services to the child, who traveled from Ohio to Indiana to terminate a pregnancy after being raped. He also in a letter urged Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb to aid in investigating Bernard

“First of all this is an illegal immigration issue,” Rokita told Jesse Watters. “Then we have the rape and then we have this abortion activist acting as a doctor with a history of failing to report. So we’re gathering the information. 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 it in Indiana, it’s a crime for – to not report, to intentionally not report.”

The network aired Bernard’s name and photo, a tactic previously wielded against abortion providers by longtime Fox News host Bill O’Reilly. 

Rokita went on to blame the situation on “Marxists and socialists and those in the White House who want lawlessness at the border,” and characterized Bernard as an “abortion activist” who along with the “lamestream media, the fake news” wants to politicize the girls assault.

“If so-called doctors are covering up child rape, they need to be prosecuted,” Watters said.

There was no cover-up. The Star identified public records indicating that Bernard did in fact file a report with the Indiana Department of Health and the Department of Child Services disclosing the abortion. The report was filed July 2, two days after the procedure to terminate the pregnancy was performed and within the timeframe mandated by Indiana law. A separate report was filed to Franklin County Children Health Services in Ohio, who then contacted law enforcement, on June 22. Bernard recieved a refferal from an Ohio child abuse doctor on June 27, and performed a medical abortion for the girl on June 30.

Kathleen Delaney, an attorney representing Bernard, told the Star that Bernard is considering legal action against individuals attempting to “smear” her and misrepresent her role in the case. “She has not violated any law, including patient privacy laws, and she has not been disciplined by her employer,” said Delaney.

In a Wednesday night tweet, Bernard said that her “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.”

Days before the arrest of 27-year-old Gerson Fuentes, Ohio Attorney General David Yost appeared on Fox News to say there was “not a damn scintilla of evidence” that the case was real, and attempted to shame the Star for running “this thing on a single source who has an obvious axe to grind.” Yost claimed that “we don’t know who the originating doctor in Ohio was, if they even exist, but the bottom line is that it is a crime if you’re a mandated reporter to fail to report.” Following Fuentes’s arrest, Yost did not acknowledge his previous comments, instead releasing a statement expressing condolences to the girl and indicating his support for law enforcement in their investigation.

Yost did not mention the doctor after the arrest, but other conservatives did. “So a 10-year-old girl was raped in Ohio by an illegal alien and could’ve gotten a legal abortion in the state bc it threatened her life but the doctors didn’t report it to the police, shipped her over to Indiana, and turned it into a media story to sell abortion to the public,” wrote commentator Greg Price.

At this time Rolling Stone could not identify any credible reporting indicating the doctors involved in treating the girl failed to alert authorities to the situation.

The rape case drew international attention in the immediate aftermath of the overturning of Roe v. Wade, which rendered abortion in Ohio illegal past the point of fetal heartbeat detection, with the only exception being scenario where the is an “emergency threatening the pregnant person’s life or bodily health. According to the Columbus Dispatch, law enforcement was made aware of the pregnancy on June 22 through a referral from Franklin County Children Services. Detective Jeffrey Huhn testified at Gerson Fuentes’s arraignment that DNA samples confirmed that Fuentes was the contributing party to the pregnancy.

In the weeks leading up to the arrest, prominent right-wing pundits and government officials attempted to discredit the story as a liberal pro-abortion fantasy. ​​Prominent media outlets, both fringe and mainstream, jumped at the emerging narrative. After President Joe Biden alluded to the case in a speech last Friday, The Wall Street Journal called the story “fanciful” under the headline “An Abortion Story Too Good to Confirm.”

Now that the man allegedly responsible for the assault has been arrested and provided law enforcement with a confession, many who intentionally threw dirt on the veracity of the story are attempting to pivot public attention away from their own mistake by focusing on Fuentes’ alleged undocumented status, and vilifying the doctor who provided potentially life saving treatment to a child in a horrific situation.

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