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Ohio Rape Abortion Story Spread Fast Despite Lack of Facts

It took only four paragraphs in a regional newspaper to start a media conflagration over abortion that in two weeks engulfed President Biden, the partisan press and some top news organizations. In the center of it: a 10-year-old rape victim, identity unknown, suddenly thrown into a political fight on one of the nation's most contentious issues, the Associated Press reports. The case first came to light in a July 1 article in The Indianapolis Star about patients heading to Indiana for abortion services because of more restrictive laws in surrounding states after the U.S. Supreme Court ruling on Roe v. Wade. The Wall Street Journal and Washington Post both clarified or corrected stories after an Ohio man was charged on Wednesday with raping the girl, who traveled to Indiana for an abortion last month. The Indianapolis piece began with an anecdote about an local doctor asked by an Ohio colleague to help the girl, who was past the stage of pregnancy where she could get a legal abortion in Ohio.


Fox News wondered why the only apparent source for the story about the girl was the Indiana doctor, Caitlin Bernard, and whether she was credible because she performs abortions and has protested restrictions placed on the service. The Washington Post’s fact checker, Glenn Kessler, wrote about those questions, noting that an abortion performed on a 10-year-old girl is rare. “This is a very difficult story to check,” Kessler wrote. “Bernard is on the record, but obtaining documents or other confirmation is all but impossible without details that would identify the locality where the rape occurred.” In conservative media circles, questions raised about the sourcing quickly shifted to claims that the story was a lie. “The idea that you would have politicians in America try to exploit a story like this and make up a story like this in order to advance their own sick agenda tells you they are not serious about the issue,” Fox News analyst Charlie Hurt said on Tuesday. In an editorial, the Wall Street Journal called it “an abortion story too good to confirm.” The Journal wrote that “all kinds of fanciful tales travel far on social media these days, but you don’t expect them to get a hearing at the White House.”

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A daily report co-sponsored by Arizona State University, Criminal Justice Journalists, and the National Criminal Justice Association

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