Abortion bullies are out in force
The bullies are in charge, and they’re making damn sure everybody knows it as they have in the case of the 10-year-old Ohio rape victim and the Indiana doctor who mercifully ended her pregnancy.
You’d think they’d be ashamed, these self-infatuated pundits and tin horn politicians who made bogus pronouncements on Fox News and elsewhere about the 10-year-old Ohio rape victim and the Indiana doctor who mercifully ended her pregnancy.
By any rational standard, the blowhards’ actions were farcical and ugly. But reason has nothing to do with it. Cruelty and stupidity are exactly the point. Thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court, the bullies are in charge, and they’re making damn sure everybody knows it.
The episode began in the Indianapolis Star — a one-source story, to be sure, but a named source with firsthand information and a great deal on the line. Dr. Caitlin Bernard, an OB-GYN, had personally performed the procedure. She wanted people to understand what Ohio’s draconian new anti-abortion laws were doing: forcing a fourth-grader to flee her home state to end a potentially life-threatening pregnancy.
Now me, I had no trouble believing the Star’s account, and neither did my wife. For years, Diane was an administrator at a children’s hospital. She participated in regular meetings about cases apt to draw the attention of cops or reporters. The terrible things people do to children, you never want to believe. In that setting, a 10-year-old rape victim would scarcely raise an eyebrow.
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Indeed, after Ohio Attorney General David Yost went on Fox News to say that he hadn’t heard a whisper about such a crime, and said it was likely a “fabrication,” the Ohio Capital Journal went to work. A search of Columbus police records since March, it reported, “uncovered 59 reports of sexual assaults of girls 15 and younger that, based on the information available, could have resulted in pregnancy.” Maybe Yost just wasn’t listening.
No sooner had President Joe Biden expressed some of his trademark empathy toward the victim — “Imagine being that little girl, 10 years old,” he said — than Fox News’ talking heads pushed the fabrication angle. Tucker Carlson, Jesse Watters and Laura Ingraham used terminology like “hoax” and “politically timed disinformation.” How many bamboozled viewers bought it is hard to say.
The Wall Street Journal ran an editorial headlined “An Abortion Story Too Good To Confirm.” “The tale is a potent post-Roe tale of woe for those who want to make abortion a voting issue this fall,” it said. “One problem: There’s no evidence the girl exists.”
Even Washington Post fact-checker Glenn Kessler wrote a persnickety column expressing skepticism on the grounds that the Indianapolis Star’s version was “a very difficult story to check.”
On his Media Nation website, Dan Kennedy points out that both Kessler and the WSJ studiously ignore the fact that “the media don’t identify rape victims, let alone those who are 10.”
Most readers know what happened next. The Columbus Dispatch broke the news that the child’s rapist had been arrested and charged, and he had confessed to police. During his arraignment, prosecutors said his victim had become pregnant, but traveled to another state for an abortion.
The newspaper also reported that similar cases were more common than people would like to believe. Ohio health department records showed that there had been 52 abortions performed on children 14 and under there during 2020 — basically one a week. Most are the result of rapes by definition; the age of consent in Ohio is 16.
So you’d think Republican politicians might have been chastened. But no. The very next day, Indiana’s Republican attorney general, Todd Rokita, went on — where else? — Fox News to denounce the real villain in the story: Dr. Bernard. He called her “an abortion activist” with a suspect history.
Rokita gave no particulars, but added, “We’re gathering the evidence as we speak and we’re going to fight this to the end, including looking at [Bernard’s] licensure, if she failed to report. In Indiana it’s a crime ... to intentionally not report.”
Big “if,” pal. Is it even necessary to say that Rokita, a former GOP congressman, was talking out his ...
Well, blowing smoke is a gentler way to put it.
Come to find out, courtesy of Josh Marshall’s Talking Points Memo website, “a local Fox affiliate in Indiana was able to find out through a simple public records request that Bernard not only filed the report on the termination of the pregnancy but also reported that the patient was a victim of abuse — even though the abuse occurred not in Indiana but the neighboring state of Ohio, where it was also reported to authorities by the girl’s physician.”
Even a cursory check of public records easily available to both AGs would have saved them the embarrassment. A public defender who turned up in traffic court so farcically unprepared would soon be out of a job. Too many voters, however, like them mean and stupid.
Soon enough, pregnant children are going to die, and women suffering miscarriages will, too. These laws are barbarous, and the people enforcing them too filled with partisan zeal to deal with mere reality.
Gene Lyons is a National Magazine Award winner and co-author of “The Hunting of the President.”
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