By Carly Mitchell / New York City
(The author, a public-school teacher, is using a pseudonym for professional reasons)
Two weeks ago, on July 2, Dr. Caitlin Bernard, an ob-gyn and assistant professor at Indiana University School of Medicine reported, as required by the Indiana Department of Health, that she had performed an abortion. The patient? A 10-year-old rape victim from Ohio.
Ohio had immediately outlawed all abortions after six weeks of gestation following the Supreme Court’s June 24 decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. The young girl in question was raped in early May, which meant she was six weeks and three days into her pregnancy. But neighboring state Indiana allows abortion for up to 20 weeks after gestation, so the girl was taken across state lines for the procedure.
The explosive facts of the case garnered national attention, again bringing focus to the turbulent national relationship between Democrats and Republicans. After the case was initially reported, conservative media outlets fixated on the idea that the young girl did not exist, that the case was created by left-wing pro-choice liberals who were trying to make a point.
President Biden even weighed in on the disturbing incident. In a speech on July 8, Biden recounted the case and passionately declared that a “10 year-old girl should not be forced to give birth to a rapist’s child” and chastised the Supreme Court for overturning Roe.
Last week, police reports were released that proved that the story was in fact true. Gerson Fuentes, a 27-year-old man, admitted to raping the 10-year-old twice. That didn’t stop the political fireworks. Right-wing pundits quickly shifted talking points, and conservative news outlets such as Fox News focused on the fact that Fuentes is an illegal immigrant from Guatemala.
To make matters worse, Todd Rokita, the Republican Indiana Attorney General, announced that he plans to investigate the case, which generated rumors that Dr. Bernard had improperly reported the procedure.
Jim Bopp, a lawyer for the National Right to Life Committee who had helped draft the Ohio law, took it even a stop further. On Thursday, July 14, Bopp told Politico, "She would have had the baby, and as many women who have had babies as a result of rape, we would hope that she would understand the reason and ultimately the benefit of having the child."
As the facts of the case unfold, I wonder what the young girls in my seventh-grade classroom would think about the way our country is responding to this tragedy. What must it be like to come of age during a time when the decision as to what a woman should be able to do with her body is up for debate (again)? How does a young woman grapple with the fact that there are people out there who deny this terrible event ever happened, or even that the victim exists?
One of the most disturbing aspects of this situation to me is the sad fact that a 10- year-old is now a symbol of our country’s failure to protect women, and even worse, young girls). When this child enters her classroom in the fall, will she be able to laugh and play with her peers as every 10-year-old deserves? Will she be protected? Exploited?
I was already worried sick about the effects of overturning Roe v. Wade, but now the impact of the decision is rearing its ugly head, and the young women in our communities are being pushed into the belly of the beast.
Carly Mitchell (a pseudonym) is a public-school teacher in Brooklyn N.Y. who loves to learn, to educate, and to expose the hypocrisy of New York City politicians.