© 2022 WKSU
Public Radio News for Northeast Ohio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations

Ohio Dems say Dave Yost, other GOP allowed politics to shape their comments about child rape case

U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown speaks to crowd at abortion rights rally at the Ohio Statehouse on June 26, 2022
Roger Ingles
/
U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown speaks to crowd at abortion rights rally at the Ohio Statehouse on June 26, 2022

U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown, a Democrat, is calling out Ohio Republicans who publicly doubted the story about a 10-year-old pregnant rape victim who went to Indiana to get an abortion in the days following implementation of Ohio's six-week abortion ban.

Police have now verified such a case in court documents, with a Columbus man facing a charge of rape in Franklin County court.

Brown said Republicans who support Ohio's abortion ban were so blinded by their own ideologies that they tried to discredit the story.

"They should publicly apologize for calling into question that this little girl didn't exist, that the story was made up. They should publicly apologize to her family. They should publicly apologize to the people of this state for raising the question that this story was made up. They should be ashamed of themselves," Brown said.

Attorney General Dave Yost questioned the story — first published by the Indianapolis Star — on national television. On Monday, he told Fox News host Jesse Watters that if there was such a case, he'd likely know about it. And he said there was no evidence such a case existed.

"We have regular contact with prosecutors and local police and sheriffs, not a whisper anywhere," Yost said.

Yost said his office, which oversees the processing of much of the DNA analysis done in rape cases, wasn't processing any evidence that came close to matching the case.

Yost wasn't the only Republican to question the case. On Tuesday, U.S. Congressman Jim Jordan took to Twitter, retweeting a news story from the Washington Examiner about Yost saying his office had no evidence of the 10-year-old rape victim’s existence.

Jordan added his own words to the post saying, “Another lie. Anyone surprised?”

Meanwhile, Democrats who have been critical of the six-week abortion ban from the beginning were talking about the case of the 10-year-old, including President Joe Biden when he came to Ohio last week. He urged people to "imagine being that little girl, just 10 years old."

“Does anyone believe it is Ohio’s majority view that that should not be able to be dealt with, or in any other state in the nation? A 10-year-old girl should be forced to give birth to a rapist’s child? I can tell you what, I don’t. I can’t think of anything... much more extreme," Biden said.

On Wednesday morning, Columbus Police arrested a 27-year-old man after they say he admitted he had raped the girl twice. Gerson Fuentes faces the possibility of life in prison.

With the existence of the victim confirmed, Yost issued a press statement, praising the police for arresting the alleged rapist.

But Yost didn't issue an apology.

When asked if he felt like he owed the victim an apology for not believing the story published about her, Yost responded this is "not even remotely" about not believing the little girl.

"The questions I was raising was about the Indianapolis Star and the doctor who was making the initial public statements and the red flags that appeared around that story as, day after day, there wasn't even any evidence that a crime had been committed much less that there was anything that was going to be done about it," Yost said.

Yost said "anybody who conflates the two, frankly, probably has a little bit of a political axe to grind."

As for Jordan, he deleted his earlier tweet without apology or explanation and replaced it with one saying, “Fuentes should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

Rep. Jeff Crossman (D-Parma), attorney general candidate, issued a statement chastising Yost for his comments on this situation.

"Yost should be ashamed — not only for calling a 10-year-old rape victim a liar but for helping to create the circumstances that prevented her from getting the critical health care she needed in the first place," Crossman said.

Yost played a big role in getting the six-week abortion ban, that is in effect in Ohio right now, implemented. Shortly after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned precedent that allowed abortion nationwide and sent control of it back to the states, Yost went to a federal court, asking it to take Ohio's six-week ban, which was passed in 2019, off hold. And within a few hours, the federal court did just that. The actual challenge to the ban is still pending in court but the ban is in place while the legal process proceeds.

Meanwhile, this story is taking the debate over the state's new abortion ban to the court of public opinion. Republican lawmakers are considering bills to ban abortion outright and legislative leaders say they will take up some of those proposals when they come back in November.

Some of that legislation goes farther than the current ban by not allowing any exceptions. And some, including one that would define personhood as beginning at fertilization instead of conception, could also ban some popular forms of birth control or IVF treatments. Democrats, who lack enough sway in the legislature to pass bills to loosen or wipe out abortion regulations, are focusing on getting more representation from their party in the state and federal governments so they can pass laws to guarantee a right to abortion.

There's also talk about putting the issue itself before voters. One proposed ballot issue would codify abortion rights in Ohio while another could ban it. But, at this point, neither proposal is ready to start the process that would be necessary to put such an issue on the statewide ballot and that couldn't happen until next year, at the earliest.
Copyright 2022 The Statehouse News Bureau. To see more, visit The Statehouse News Bureau.

Jo Ingles is a professional journalist who covers politics and Ohio government for the Ohio Public Radio and Television for the Ohio Public Radio and Television Statehouse News Bureau. She reports on issues of importance to Ohioans including education, legislation, politics, and life and death issues such as capital punishment. Jo started her career in Louisville, Kentucky in the mid 80’s when she helped produce a televised presidential debate for ABC News, worked for a creative services company and served as a general assignment report for a commercial radio station. In 1989, she returned back to her native Ohio to work at the WOSU Stations in Columbus where she began a long resume in public radio.