We have been discussing the controversy over a ten-year-old girl who was raped in Ohio and removed to Indiana because the Ohio abortion law would not allegedly allow for the termination of her pregnancy. I wrote a couple columns on the glaring legal and factual questions in the case following a Washington Post investigation and an inquiry by the Ohio Attorney General that could not confirm any facts beyond an account of an Indiana doctor. The Columbus Dispatch reports that a
Fuentes is going to be arraigned on Wednesday and
After the arrest, I was contacted by readers who noted that the New York Post column originally referred to a possible “lie” and felt that I was calling this a hoax. That was certainly not my intention and my express words contradict that interpretation. What I have seen on the Internet notably omits my statements to the contrary in both the columns and on Twitter at the time of publication.
As I noted, I have two columns on the matter. Both stated that the case could be real, but that there were glaring legal and factual questions raised by Dr. Bernard’s account. The column looked at those questions in light of the Washington Post noting that “the only source cited for the anecdote was Bernard. She’s on the record, but there is no indication that the newspaper made other attempts to confirm her account.” I agreed with the Post that such a story should be confirmed beyond such an “anecdote.”
It also looked at these questions in light of the Ohio Attorney General saying that a search did not find such a case in their system. We have seen the media run with a number of stories without confirmation of key facts in major stories. The two columns isolated the facts that I considered to be the most important to confirm while recognizing that the story could be true even with these questions. Most of the columns addressed the ongoing risks to the child and the need for confirmation of the case and the welfare of the child.
The column expressly stated “None of this means that this did not occur. However, if it is true, there is a child rapist who is still at large. Alternatively, if this was a family member, a child may be living in the same house as her rapist.”
The thrust of the column was to discuss the legal and factual questions assuming that the case is true. Dr. Bernard’s explanation for the removal of the child from Ohio was not consistent with Ohio law. I also noted that the Washington Post sought additional details on the case but was unable to get any additional confirmation. The columns primarily addressed these unanswered legal questions on the meaning of the Ohio law and the need for a police report, particularly after the Ohio Attorney General said that he could find no such report. I said that both the Post and AG inquiries were curious because police reports are required in both states. While I said a police report may have been filed, there should be confirmation of that fact in the best interests of the child.
On the New York Post column, there was initially a headline referring to a “lie.” Authors do not write the headlines. The column was a shorter, edited version of the original column that I wrote. The mistake may have been due to an errant line inserted in editing that referred to a possible lie. I did not write that line and asked that it be removed, which it was before publication. When I saw that headline, I immediately tweeted at the time of publication that these questions do not mean that the case was not real. I also noted on Twitter at the time of publication that we do not write the headlines to convey my disagreement:
“The headline aside (which is not written by an author), everything that Dr. Bernard said could well be true. However, even if true, these missing details are critical to understanding why this action was taken and whether the child is safe.”
I also wrote to my editor to ask that the headline referring to the “lie” be changed, which they did so. The editors were immediately responsive to these requests and my concern that we should not make any such assumptions in light of the lack of confirming facts.
Both columns discuss the lack of effort to confirm the police report and the clear danger to this child if she was not afforded such protection. That was strikingly absent in coverage and I believed that these facts should have been confirmed, as the Post and the Attorney General had sought unsuccessfully to do.
Putting aside the ongoing question over the legal basis for the removal of the child, the column repeatedly called for a police report and the confirmation that the child was safe. It seemed to me that that should have been a priority in the coverage over the prior week
I still remain interested in understanding why, as claimed, the child had to be removed from Ohio. As I noted on the blog column, this may be due to confusion but the law seems clear to me.
As a legal analyst, I am often asked to address such controversies and, like the Washington Post, seek to confirm the underlying facts. This story was curious in that it was based entirely on one person’s account, which contained what I viewed incorrect statements about the underlying law. I cannot account for how these columns will be portrayed or interpreted, but that is the background to the columns.