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A story first published in the Indianapolis Star about a 10-year-old rape victim who was forced to cross state lines to get a lifesaving abortion was repeated by President Biden last week, but the widely shared story is facing increased skepticism and hasn’t been verified by even left-leaning fact-checkers.
During a White House speech announcing an executive order meant to “protect access to abortion,” Biden told the story of the young girl who allegedly was six weeks pregnant when she left Ohio to get an abortion in neighboring Indiana. The story in question was first reported in the Indy Star article headlined “As Ohio restricts abortions, 10-year-old girl travels to Indiana for procedure.”
“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,” the piece began. “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.”
No other details about the girl’s situation were mentioned in the story, and Bernard, who went on the record, was the only source for that anecdote. Biden cited the story when he signed an executive order on abortion access last week, saying the 10-year-old “was forced to have to travel out of state to Indiana to seek to terminate the pregnancy and maybe save her life.”
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“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,” Bro Krift, the newspaper’s executive editor, told Fox News Digital, the same statement it gave to the Washington Post’s fact-checker Glenn Kessler when he examined the story over the weekend. He concluded it was “very difficult” to prove the story’s veracity, sharing that child services agencies in Ohio’s major cities were not made aware of any case involving a 10-year-old’s rape and pregnancy.
A number of other issues with the story also have thrown its authenticity under heavy skepticism, with some examples noted by Kessler and Megan Fox of PJ Media.
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The first issue arose after numerous outlets attempted to contact Bernard about the story with no success. It was later discovered that Bernard is an abortion activist who has sued the state of Indiana to stop abortion regulation.
Secondly, the rape of a 10-year-old would have immediately triggered a criminal investigation in the state of Ohio. Under the law, any physician is considered a mandate reporter and would be required to tell the local child welfare or law enforcement of suspected physical, sexual or emotional abuse of someone under 18. No criminal investigation has been found that matches the story, and the office of Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, R., said it was not aware of any such case. He said it would be hard to confirm such a report without knowing the local jurisdiction in which the rape occurred.
This would also prove difficult, considering that Bernard declined to identify her colleague that relayed the girls’ information to her or the city in which the child was allegedly located.
“Thank you for reaching out. I’m sorry, but I don’t have any information to share,” she said in an email to the Washington Post.
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Even left-wing fact-checker Snopes could not determine if the story was true.
“Dozens of Snopes readers searched our site or contacted us wondering whether that had actually happened. To find out, we reached out to Dr. Caitlin Bernard, an obstetrician-gynecologist based in Indianapolis and who spoke to The Columbus Dispatch, about the headline-generating story,” Snopes wrote. “As of this writing, Bernard had not returned our request for an interview, and we had not been able to independently corroborate the abortion claim.”
The story went viral, getting picked up by The Hill, Newsweek, The Guardian, The Daily Beast, The Independent and HuffPost, among others.
On both CNN and in a Washington Post opinion column, the story was used as a means to criticize Republicans.
During a July 3 interview with South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, R., “State of the Union” anchor Dana Bash repeatedly pressed her on the story of the 10-year-old, asking if the state’s laws would prosecute a child for a similar situation.
“I don’t believe a tragic situation should be perpetuated by another tragedy,” Noem said in part.
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Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin also cited the story in a recent column, citing Noem’s response on CNN and writing, “The tragedy of forcing a 10-year-old to undergo a pregnancy and the pain of childbirth does not register with Noem.”
Fox News Digital also reached out to the White House to determine if it had any additional information about the story, or would deploy resources to find this girl and determine her situation and if she is safe. The White House did not immediately return comment.