Posted by Curt on 9 July, 2022 at 9:50 am. 6 comments already!


by Glenn Kessler

“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.”
— President Biden, remarks during signing of executive order on abortion access, July 8

This is the account of a one-source story that quickly went viral around the world — and into the talking points of the president.


The Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade, which had guaranteed a right to abortion, has led a number of states to quickly impose new laws to restrict or limit abortions. Ohio was one of the first, imposing a ban on abortions after six weeks of pregnancy, with no exceptions for rape and incest.


On July 1, the Indianapolis Star, also known as the IndyStar, published an article, written by the newspaper’s medical writer, about how women seeking abortions had begun traveling from Ohio to Indiana, where less restrictive abortion laws were still in place. “Patients head to Indiana for abortion services as other states restrict care,” the article was headlined.

That was a benign headline. But it was the anecdotal beginning that caught the attention of other news organizations. The article said that three days after the June 24 court ruling, an Indianapolis obstetrician-gynecologist, Caitlan Bernard, who performs abortions, received a call from “a child abuse doctor” in Ohio who had a 10-year-old patient who was six weeks and three days pregnant. Unable to obtain an abortion in Ohio, “the girl soon was on her way to Indiana to Bernard’s care,” the Star reported.


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.


A sampling:


  • The Daily Mail, July 1: “Child abuse victim, 10, who was six weeks pregnant is forced to travel from Ohio to Indiana for an abortion after home state outlaws it under Roe v Wade ruling.”
  • The Guardian, July 3: “10-year-old rape victim forced to travel from Ohio to Indiana for abortion.”
  • The Jerusalem Post, July 3: “10-year-old rape victim denied abortion in Ohio”
  • Bangladesh Weekly, July 3: “US: 10-year-old Ohio girl denied abortion after abortion ruling”


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.


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.


Bernard declined to identify to the Fact Checker her colleague or the city where the child was located. “Thank you for reaching out. I’m sorry, but I don’t have any information to share,” she said in an email.


Dan Tierney, press secretary for Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R), said the governor’s office was unaware of any specific case but he said under the state’s decentralized system, records would be held at a local level. Thus, he said, it would be hard to confirm a report without knowing the local jurisdiction to narrow the search. He added: “The rape of a ten-year-old certainly would be newsworthy.”


As a spot check, we contacted child services agencies in some of Ohio’s most populous cities, including Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati, Dayton and Toledo. None of the officials we reached were aware of such a case in their areas.

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