President Joe Biden’s claim that a 10-year-old rape victim was forced to travel across state lines to get an abortion after last month’s Roe Vs. Wade ruling has come into question, after a Washington Post fact-checker found the story to be largely unsubstantiated.
It has also emerged that the doctor who first shared the story with an Indiana-based news outlet is a prominent abortion advocate – placing further doubt on its credibility.
The one-source story was provided to an Indiana news outlet by Indianapolis obstetrician-gynecologist Dr. Caitlin Bernard last week. She claimed a child abuse doctor in Ohio contacted her about the case seeking aid from the doctor.
The account asserts the unnamed girl, who lives in Ohio, was forced to seek an abortion in Indiana after her home state banned abortion under its trigger law after Roe v Wade was overturned.
The dramatic anecdote has been widely shared since – primarily as a talking point by the left to lambaste last month’s ruling.
On Friday, the president himself referenced the story, using it to help push an executive order that would protect abortions in the wake of the decision – spurring the Post journalist to eventually weigh in.
On Friday, the president himself referenced the story, using it to help push an executive order that would protect abortions in the wake of the decision – spurring the Post journalist to eventually weigh in
‘This isn’t some imagined horror,’ Biden said. ‘It is already happening. Just last week, it was reported that a 10-year-old girl was a rape victim – 10 years old – and she was forced to have to travel out of state to Indiana to seek to terminate the pregnancy and maybe save her life.’
Biden, 79, raised his voice as he recounted the story, grasping the podium with both hands as he railed about the trauma the girl would have faced, and the presumed unfairness of the situation.
‘Imagine being that little girl,’ he added, in another appeal to the crowd. ‘Just imagine being that little girl. Ten years old!’
The account was given by Bernard to the Indianapolis Star on July 1 – but has since been called into question by a flood of critics who have deemed the claims as dubious.
The one-source story was provided to an Indiana news outlet by Indianapolis obstetrician-gynecologist Dr. Caitlin Bernard, who said a child abuse doctor in Ohio contacted her about the case seeking aid from the doctor. She has since declined to provide more details about the story
Detractors cite how Bernard did not name the doctor who contacted her about the incident, nor the city where the child was located, while others pointed out that Bernard is a prominent abortion advocate, citing a slew of posts on her social media.
On Saturday, Washington Post fact-checker Glenn Kessler threw further cold water on the claims after watching the president’s speech, calling the story ‘very difficult’ to verify.
‘This is the account of a one-source story that quickly went viral around the world — and into the talking points of the president,’ Kessler – usually a proponent for the president – wrote of his doubt’s over the tale’s certainty.
Kessler began writing, ‘The Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade, which had guaranteed a right to abortion, has led a number of states to quickly impose new laws to restrict or limit abortions.
‘Ohio was one of the first, imposing a ban on abortions after six weeks of pregnancy, with no exceptions for rape and incest,’ he went on, reiterating claims in the article, which was titled, ‘Patients head to Indiana for abortion services as other states restrict care.’
Kessler noted how Bernard was the only source for the story – and revealed the OBGYN declined to provide details to the Post about the location of the alleged rape, or whether it was being investigated by authorities.
Bernard’s account, given to the Indianapolis Star days after last month’s Supreme Court ruling, asserts the unnamed girl was forced to seek an abortion in Indiana after her home state of Ohio barred abortion following the decision
‘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.’
Kessler then mentioned how that one claim from Bernard soon went viral, making its way into headlines of publications all over the world – with other outlets in the process failing to investigate the doctor’s claims.
‘The story quickly caught fire, becoming a headline in newspapers around the world. News organizations increasingly ‘aggregate’ – or repackage – reporting from elsewhere if it appears of interest to readers. So Bernard remained the only source.’
He added that when asked to verify her reporting, the story’s author, Shari Rudavksy, ‘did not respond.’
The paper’s executive editor, meanwhile, Bo Krift, defended the piece, but provided no facts or sourcing to support his or Bernard’s claims.
‘The facts and sourcing about people crossing state lines into Indiana, including the 10-year-old girl, for abortions are clear,’ Krift reportedly wrote. ‘We have no additional comment at this time.’
It has since emerged that Bernard is a prominent abortion advocate, with several posts on her social media showing her support for the cause. She has refused to provide any details to the press that would substantiate her claims regarding the 10-year-old rape victim
Bernard, meanwhile, declined to identify to Kessler the name of her colleague or the city where the rape transpired.
Bernard wrote in an email: ‘Thank you for reaching out. I’m sorry, but I don’t have any information to share.’
The fact-checking website Snopes.com earlier this week said Bernard had refused to provide further information about the incident to the outlet as well.
DailyMail.com reached out to Bernard’s office Saturday, but did not receive a response.
By law, both physicians and reporters are mandated to disclose evidence of child abuse to police – however, in the days since, no arrests in such a case have been reported.
Ohio Governor Mike DeWine’s office said this week that it was ‘unaware of any specific case’ that met the claims’ criteria.
President Biden signs an executive order protecting access to reproductive health services on July 8. The president – like many other pro-abortion advocates – used the anecdote to push his political stance on the issue
White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre has since refused to say if Biden had confirmed that local law enforcement was seeking the child’s attacker, while seeming conceding the president used the anecdote to push a political agenda.
‘The President spoke to that -a young woman -just to show how extreme the decision on… the Dobbs decision was, and just how extreme it is now for American public, the American families,’ Jean-Pierre said at daily press briefing Friday.
Kessler concluded his report on the story by giving his ‘Bottom Line,’ in which he said the case would be impossible to substantiate until more information is provided.
‘This is a very difficult story to check,’ the fact-checker 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.’
He added that in the absence of the charge, US citizens should take Bernard’s claims with a grain of salt.
‘With news reports around the globe and now a presidential imprimatur, however, the story has acquired the status of a ‘fact’ no matter its provenance,’ he wrote, adding, ‘If a rapist is ever charged, the fact finally would have more solid grounding.’
Since the Supreme Court’s ruling two weeks ago, Biden has been under pressure to take executive action and faced criticism from some in his own party for not acting with more urgency.
The administration also is continuing to push Congress to codify Roe into federal law.
Biden, last week, called for the Senate to overturn the use of the filibuster to help codify abortion rights.
The White House previously ruled out giving women access to abortion on federal lands, saying it would have ‘dangerous ramifications.’
In the wake of the Supreme Court ruling, many states tamped down on access to abortion services and, in some cases, to emergency contraception.
In a nod to the legal battles expected to come, Biden will also direct the attorney general and the White House counsel to convene private pro bono attorneys, bar associations, and public interest groups to help with legal representation.
‘Such representation could include protecting the right to travel out of state to seek medical care,’ the White House noted in a fact sheet on the order.
Abortion rights activists, dressed in an outfits from The Handmaid’s Tale, lead protestors during a march in Denver, Colorado – protests sprang up around the nation after the Supreme Court ruling
Abortion is expected to be a huge issue in the upcoming midterm election.
And states are expected to be the major legal battle ground.
Biden met with Democratic governors at the White House last week to talk about efforts to protect reproductive rights.
Many of them have already taken action.
The Democratic governors of Colorado and North Carolina have issued executive orders to protect abortion providers and patients from extradition to home states that have banned the practice.
And the governors of Rhode Island and Maine have signed executive orders stating that they will not cooperate with other states’ investigations into people who seek abortions or health care providers that perform them.