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Delivering impassioned remarks on the future of abortion access in the United States, President Biden on Friday expressed outrage over the case of a 10-year-old rape victim in Ohio who was forced to travel across the state line to undergo an abortion.
“She was forced to have to travel out of the state to Indiana to seek to terminate the pregnancy and maybe save her life,” Biden said in remarks at the White House. “Ten years old — 10 years old! — raped, six weeks pregnant, already traumatized, was forced to travel to another state.”
The Indianapolis Star reported last week that, three days after the Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade, a doctor in Ohio who treats children who have been abused called an Indianapolis-based obstetrician-gynecologist to tell her about the case of a 10-year-old patient, a rape victim, who needed an abortion.
Ohio passed a law in 2019 that made abortion illegal around six weeks, when a fetal heartbeat can be detected. Hours after the Supreme Court erased Roe, the Ohio law took effect. The girl was, at that point, six weeks and three days pregnant.
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The Ohio doctor asked the Indiana doctor if there were anything they could do for the girl. She later was able to cross state lines to receive an abortion under the Indiana doctor’s care.
While performing an abortion before six weeks is still legal in Indiana, lawmakers in the state will be meeting later this month to consider further abortion restrictions. According to the Indianapolis Star, abortion providers in the state have been receiving more calls from patients out-of-state requesting abortion services.
Abortions performed on patients younger than age 15 in the country are rare — in 2019, only 0.2 percent of reported abortions were performed on patients that young, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
As he retold the girl’s story Friday, Biden grew visibly upset. A 10-year-old girl, he said, should not “be forced to give birth to a rapist’s child.”
Biden’s focus on the child came shortly before he signed an executive order to protect abortion rights in the wake of the Supreme Court decision. The administration has faced pressure from other Democrats to do more, but Biden acknowledged that his executive power has limits.
The Supreme Court’s ruling, he said, was “terrible, extreme, and I think so totally wrongheaded decision.”
He added that, in his view, the court’s majority is “playing fast and loose with the facts” in its opinion by misrepresenting the history of abortion rights in America.
“I can’t think of anything as much more extreme as [the] court’s decision,” an emotional Biden said.
Biden’s remarks on the 10-year-old’s case were far different from Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R), who focused on the criminal act, calling the sexual assault of the child a “tragedy,” according to the Cincinnati Enquirer, saying that what the state has out there, “obviously, [is] a rapist.”
“We have someone who is dangerous and we have someone who should be picked up and locked up forever,” DeWine said.
He did not, however, comment on the Ohio law he signed that barred her from receiving an abortion in the state.
“This is a horrible, horrible tragedy for a 10-year-old to be assaulted, for a 10-year-old to be raped,” DeWine said Wednesday, according to the Enquirer. “As a father and as a grandfather, it’s just gut-wrenching to even think about it.”
The Ohio law was one of so-called trigger bans that went into effect in several states immediately after the court struck down Roe.
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At the daily briefing after Biden’s remarks, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said the president discussed the girl’s case “just to show how extreme the decision on the Dobbs decision was and just how extreme it is now for the American public.”
“When you have such a young girl who has to carry out the child of a rapist, that is unacceptable,” Jean-Pierre said. “This is why he is calling for action. This is why he’s trying to do everything that he can from his legal authority that he has.”
Biden, Jean-Pierre said, is “going to do everything that he can to protect young people who are like this young girl.”
“But at the same time, he’s going to call it out and use his bully pulpit to make it clear of what is happening out there is unacceptable,” she added.
The president, during his remarks Friday, also warned of a future in which Republicans in Congress would feel emboldened to pass a national ban on abortion. Such a measure, he said, would not become law under his watch because he would veto it.
“We cannot allow an out-of-control Supreme Court, working in conjunction with extremist elements of the Republican Party, to take away freedoms and our personal autonomy,” he said.