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Ohio man sentenced to life in prison for rape of 10-year-old girl who traveled to Indiana for abortion

Dr. Caitlin Bernard speaks out to CBS News
Dr. Caitlin Bernard, doctor at the center of abortion debate, speaks out to CBS News 03:25

An Ohio man was sentenced to life in prison on Wednesday for raping a 10-year-old girl who then had to travel to Indiana for an abortion in a case that drew national attention when the obstetrician-gynecologist who provided the procedure spoke about it with a journalist.

Gerson Fuentes, 28, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to life in prison. However, his plea deal states he can file for parole after 25 years, according to court documents. If parole is granted, Fuentes, who is from Guatemala and was living in Columbus, Ohio, would have to register as a sex offender. 

Common Pleas Court Judge Julie Lynch called the plea deal a "very hard pill for this court to swallow," The Associated Press reported. Lynch said the victim's family asked the judge to back the deal. 

Gerson Fuentes,Bryan Bowen
Gerson Fuentes, center, the man accused of raping and impregnating a 9-year-old Ohio girl, who at 10 had to travel to Indiana for an abortion. Paul Vernon via Associated Press

The girl was 9 years old when she was assaulted by Fuentes. Columbus police learned about the girl's pregnancy through a referral to the Franklin County Children Services that was made by her mother. Shortly after her 10th birthday, the girl traveled to Indiana to get an abortion. Prosecutors said DNA testing of the aborted fetus confirmed Fuentes was the father.

The girl couldn't get the procedure in Ohio under a newly imposed state ban on abortions at the first detectable "fetal heartbeat," which went into full effect after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.     

The girl's doctor, Dr. Caitlin Bernard, told a journalist at the Indianapolis Star she was contacted by a child abuse doctor in Ohio to arrange for the procedure in Indiana. Attorney General Todd Rokita filed a complaint against the doctor for speaking about the procedure and violating medical privacy laws.

Bernard said she raised the issue to alert Indiana residents to the realities of pregnancy termination care if the state passed strict abortion bans. During a hearing, Bernard said she used a real-life example because a hypothetical case wouldn't have the same impact on readers. She said she notified Indiana hospital social workers about the abuse, and the girl's case was already being investigated by Ohio authorities. The doctor's attorneys said she didn't release any identifying information about the patient. 

Indiana's medical licensing board issued Bernard $3,000 in fines and a letter of reprimand but didn't suspend her license. 

On June 30, the Indiana Supreme Court ruled the state's near-total abortion ban can take effect. The legislation — among the strictest in the nation — bans abortion except in cases of rape, incest, and to protect the life and physical health of the mother.

The Associated Press and Melissa Quinn contributed reporting

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