Good court reporting by midwest journalists proved that the story of a 10-year-old rape victim from Ohio who was forced to travel to Indiana for an abortion because of new restrictions in her home state was not a hoax, the Washington Post reports. An indignant President Biden cited the July 1 story as an example of extreme abortion laws, and his political opponents pounced. They suggested it was a lie. The Wall Street Journal's editorial board concluded it was “too good to confirm.” Ohio’s attorney general called it a “fabrication.” Reporter Bethany Bruner of the Columbus Dispatch and her colleagues spent days studying public records and calling sources, painstakingly narrowing their search for the girl’s attacker to central Ohio. Bruner spotted an entry on the July 13 local court docket and learned a man would be arraigned that morning for the rape of a 10-year-old.
Inside the courtroom, Bruner kept glancing at the door, expecting to see another reporter enter. None did as the judge called up the case. “I guess it’s going to be me,” Bruner thought. “I guess I’m going to be the one.” Within hours, the Dispatch and its sister paper, the Indianapolis Star, had locked down one of the first major stories of the post-Roe v. Wade era: police had indeed investigated and charged an Ohio man with impregnating a 10-year-old girl, who had to cross state lines for an abortion after the Supreme Court’s ruling allowed new Ohio restrictions to take effect. Their reporting demonstrated that the girl’s horrifying situation was not so rare as many had assumed. It also showed why the public rarely hears of such abortion stories — and why they will need local journalists to inform them of the impacts of Roe’s demise.