An Ohio grand jury returned a two-count indictment against the man accused of raping a girl who later traveled to Indiana to obtain an abortion because she was barred from terminating the pregnancy in her home state.
The indictment on Thursday also reveals that the girl was just 9 years old at the time she was assaulted, younger even than the 10 years of age widely reported at the time she sought an out-of-state abortion.
Gerson Fuentes, 27, jailed since his July 12 arrest, was previously charged with rape in a criminal complaint filed by prosecutors in a case that stirred an uproar following the U.S. Supreme Court decision last month erasing a constitutional right to abortion.
Ohio law bans abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected which is usualy five or six weeks of after conception – before many women are even aware they are expecting – and makes no exceptions for rape or incest. It does make an exception to "prevent the death of the pregnant woman" or "irreversible impairment of a major bodily function."
The Ohio ban went into effect hours after the Supreme Court's conservative majority struck down the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision establishing a national right to an abortion and allowing each state to regulate the procedure as it sees fit.
Fuentes is to be arraigned on the new charges next Monday. A police investigator testified at his previous arraignment last week that Fuentes had confessed to raping his victim at least twice, and that the girl underwent an abortion in neighboring Indiana on June 30.
The indictment charges Fuentes with two counts of rape, according to a redacted copy of the document filed in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas. It says the victim was 9 years old on both occasions but gives no details of the alleged encounters or of how the defendant and victim may have known one another.
An electronic court docket shows Fuentes has yet to enter a plea and has no attorney of record.
A grand jury indictment in such a case is largely a procedural matter that spares prosecutors the additional legal step of asking a judge to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to bring the case to trial.
Abortion rights advocates, and even President Joe Biden, have seized on the plight of the young rape victim as a talking point to demonstrate the real-life consequences of restricting abortion access.
Opponents of abortion sought to raise doubts about the veracity of the story, first reported by Indianapolis Star, until the suspect made his first court appearance on July 13.
The Ohio girl was three days past the six-week limit when she left her home state to terminate her pregnancy in Indiana, where such abortions remain legal, though the Republican-controlled legislature there is soon expected to consider new restrictions.
At least 26 states in all have either severely restricted abortions in the wake of the Supreme Court ruling last month or are expected to do so in the coming weeks or months.
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