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Thursday, June 20, 2024

Man accused of raping and impregnating child in Ohio is sentenced to life in prison after guilty plea

A man accused of impregnating an Ohio child – a girl who then went to Indiana for an abortion in a case that became a flashpoint in debates about post-Roe v. Wade abortion rights – was sentenced to life in prison Wednesday after pleading guilty to rape, according to court documents.

Gerson Fuentes, 28, pleaded guilty Wednesday to two counts of rape and was sentenced the same day to life in prison with the possibility of parole after 25 to 30 years, according to documents from the clerk of courts in Ohio’s Franklin County.

The girl was 9 when she was raped, according to a court indictment, and was 10 when the pregnancy ended last summer.

In July, Fuentes admitted during a police interview through an interpreter that he raped the girl at least twice, authorities said, but later pleaded not guilty to felony rape of a minor. A trial was planned for this year – a trial now avoided through Wednesday’s plea.

Agreeing to the sentencing recommendation was a “hard pill for this court to swallow,” Lynch said. “If (the) family hadn’t begged me to take this joint recommendation, this would never be happening,” she said.

The girl’s case drew global attention when an Indianapolis doctor revealed to the Indianapolis Star last summer that she’d just provided abortion services to a 10-year-old Ohio girl. The disclosure of why the girl went to Indiana for the service – days after the US Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and ended the federal right to abortion, thrust that doctor into the national debate over abortion rights in the country.

The physician, Dr. Caitlin Bernard, told last year that she provided abortion services to the child in late June 2022 and that the girl traveled to Indiana for the procedure because Ohio, after the Roe ruling, generally banned abortions after early cardiac activity is detected, which is around six weeks into a pregnancy. The girl was six weeks and three days into her pregnancy, Bernard said.

At the time of the procedure, Indiana allowed abortions up to 20 weeks after fertilization. The state then passed a law that would ban abortion at all stages of pregnancy with limited exceptions for rape or incest or to save the woman’s life, prevent any serious health risk to the woman, and for lethal fetal abnormalities. However, that law was temporarily blocked, pending court fights.

Days after Bernard spoke about the case, Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita said he was investigating the doctor, in part over whether she violated privacy laws by addressing it publicly.

In May, Indiana’s medical licensing board reprimanded and fined Bernard after it determined the disclosure violated federal and state patient privacy laws.

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