A pregnant 11-year-old rape victim in Ohio would no longer be allowed to have an abortion under new state law
An 11-year-old girl in Ohio was allegedly raped by a 26-year-old multiple times, leaving her pregnant, according to police reports. A state law passed in April, but not yet in effect, says that victims like her won't have a choice to have an abortion — they would have to carry and deliver their rapist's child.
The law prohibits women from obtaining an abortion after a fetal heartbeat is detected, about five or six weeks into a pregnancy, before most women even know that they're pregnant.
The law provides no exceptions for rape or incest.
In an email to CBS News on May 9, the Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost defended the statute. "Sometimes, the evolution of the law requires bold steps," Yost said, quoting a statement that was issued when the law was passed in April. "In the last 46 years, the practice of medicine has changed. Science has changed. Even the point of viability has changed. Only the law has lagged behind."
Yost's office later clarified that the quote was not specifically in reference to the 11-year-old girl, and said that his office would defend Ohio's statute in court.
When signing the bill, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine focused on the rights of the fetus. "The essential function of government is to protect the most vulnerable among us, those who don't have a voice," he said. "Government's role should be to protect life from the beginning to the end."
Though the 11-year-old in this case won't be subject to the state's pending law, thousands of other women in the future would be. More than 4,000 women were raped in Ohio in 2017, according to data compiled by the FBI. Of those, more than 800 victims were assaulted by a family member. In the future, if women became pregnant as a result of such crimes, Ohio's so-called "fetal heartbeat bill" would prohibit them from receiving an abortion any time after about six weeks, which is before most women even know they're pregnant.
An incident report filed April 29 by the local police department reflects an interview with an employee of a "pregnancy care center," who appeared to place some of the responsibility on the 11-year old rape victim. She is "rebellious," the employee said, according to the police report, and "refuses to listen to her mother and runs away from home all the time." A separate incident report does not adequately redact the victim's name nor her home address, even though the victim is a minor.
CBS News' attempts to reach the family of the 11-year-old victim were unsuccessful. CBS News was not able to confirm the status of her pregnancy or what options the family would pursue.
The report noted that the rape was "non-forcible." Police officers found the victim at the home of her alleged rapist, Juan Leon-Gomez, after her family reported she had "left the residence without her mother's permission." That night, Leon-Gomez was arrested.
After the arrest, the police report says the 11-year-old rape victim was counseled on "her delinquent behavior."
Last week, Leon-Gomez was indicted for felony rape and obstruction of official business by the Stark County Court and held on a $1 million bond, according to court documents. He's scheduled to be arraigned May 20.
Ohio's six-week ban isn't slated to go into effect until July, but abortion rights advocates from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Center for Reproductive Rights have vowed to challenge it in court before then.
Even though Ohio joins five other states that have passed their own six-week bans, none have been implemented. They either haven't taken effect yet, as in Georgia and Ohio's case, or they were blocked by a federal judge, like in Mississippi, Kentucky, Iowa and North Dakota.
Even with the law not yet implemented, the 11-year-old would face many obstacles if she did want to terminate her pregnancy, said Elizabeth Nash, a senior state issues manager at the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive rights research organization. Prior to Ohio's six-week ban, the state's laws were already some of the most restrictive toward abortion access, according to data from Guttmacher. Abortions after 20 weeks into a pregnancy are prohibited in the state, and minors, like the 11-year-old rape victim, must obtain parental consent, or argue their case to a judge.
"There's so much that already has to fall in place already for a girl like her to have an abortion in Ohio, never mind a six-week ban," Nash said.
Rape and incest exceptions took center stage last week in Alabama, where chaos erupted during a legislative session when state Republicans quickly removed an exception for rape and incest victims in a near-total abortion ban bill. On Tuesday, lawmakers plan to debate and vote on the bill. If it passes, which it's expected to, it will be the most restrictive anti-abortion law approved since the 1973 ruling Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court case that protects a woman's right to an abortion.
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