opinion | How the story of a 10-year-old Ohio rape victim reflects the post-Roe world Fox News wanted

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June 24th was a lucky day at Fox News. Roe v. calfthe landmark 1973 Supreme Court decision codifying abortion rights had been overturned by the court’s verdict Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. On his evening program, Fox host Jesse Watters pulled off a victory lap tinged with his signature snark:

“Abortion is an emotional issue and liberals are angry and they want you to know that,” said Watters, who also claimed that “the Democrat politicians scare them to death.”

A few weeks later, it was Watters who seemed scared. roe‘s downfall, which threw abortion policy statewide, involved the story of a 10-year-old rape victim who sought an abortion. It was exactly the scenario that abortion advocates had predicted. Could Fox News handle it?

Details of the matter came from the Indianapolis Star, which reported on July 1 that a 10-year-old rape victim from Ohio had traveled to Indiana to have an abortion. After the judgment of the Supreme Court in DobbsOhio moved to ban abortions after six weeks of pregnancy. The newspaper attributed the story to Indianapolis obstetrician-gynecologist Caitlin Bernard, who said she was contacted by a child abuse doctor in Ohio.

The double victimization of a 10-year-old – who reportedly could have been conceived at age 9 – shook the shoulders of a country that had lived half a century beneath roe‘s protection. “Imagine if you were that little girl,” President Biden said Friday as he signed an executive order on reproductive rights and welfare. “Only I’m serious. Imagine you are that little girl.”

That was unsettling, so Watters got serious. He said Monday night his show “decided to investigate this alleged child rape,” noting that Ohio authorities had not opened a criminal investigation. “That doesn’t make sense,” said Watters, who was referring to a Post Fact Checker column by Glenn Kessler that looked at sourcing — and the challenges of sourcing — for the IndyStar report, which had gone viral. Though Watters considered the possibility that the story was true, he made his inclinations clear:

So where do we stand? If there’s a 10-year-old child molester out there on the streets of Ohio, he needs to be brought to justice. And if so-called doctors cover up child rape, they must be prosecuted. But when this horrible story isn’t true, and the abortion doctor and the Indianapolis Star mislead us, and the mainstream media and the President of the United States pick up another hoax, it’s absolutely shameful and fits into a rather dangerous pattern of politically-timed disinformation .

Fox News’ midday roundtable show Outnumbered threw out any reticence Watters had sewn into its reporting. “There is no shortage of 10-year-old rape victims,” ​​panel member Emily Compagno said on Tuesday’s broadcast. “There are victims from infants to the elderly – both sexes. There’s more than you can count. There are so many monsters out there. So what I find so deeply offensive is that they had to invent a fake. In fact, there are so many, there are countless real ones that I would love to use as a law and order advocate.”

Later on Tuesday, Fox News prime-time host Tucker Carlson said, “Why did the Biden administration — speaking of lies — just repeat a story about a 10-year-old child who got pregnant and was or wasn’t allowed to have an abortion.” Have an abortion if the story turns out to be untrue?”

But it wasn’t a lie at all: The Columbus Dispatch reported Wednesday that a Columbus man – 27-year-old Gerson Fuentes – had been charged with raping a 10-year-old. The newspaper cited a police officer as a witness that the girl underwent a medical abortion on June 30 in Indianapolis. Ohio bans abortions after the pregnancy reaches six weeks, and the 10-year-old was six weeks and three days into her pregnancy when she was examined.

How did Watters filter development? Through Attack on Bernard, the abortion provider at the center of the story.

Carlson (predictably) addressed a detail in the Dispatch’s story – namely that Fuentes “is believed to be undocumented.” “10-YEAR-OLD RAPE IS AN ILLEGAL IMMIGRANT” read Wednesday night on a chronicle adorning Carlson’s discussion of the case. There was no “alleged” in the on-screen graphic to signal that Fuentes was not convicted — a tendency Carlson demonstrated years ago when he hyped high-profile immigrant rape allegations in Rockville, Md. — allegations that were later dropped.

Another talking point for Fox News emerged in Watter’s monologue Wednesday night when he said the girl didn’t have to flee to Indiana for the abortion. Watters relied on an interview for this comment which he aired Monday night with Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost. “Ohio’s heartbeat law provides an exception for medical emergencies that extends beyond the life of the mother,” Yost told Watters. “She – this young girl – if she exists and if this horrible thing actually happened to her, it breaks my heart to think about it – she didn’t have to leave Ohio to get treatment.”

Elizabeth Nash, principal policy associate for state affairs at the Guttmacher Institute, a research organization that advocates for abortion rights, points out that the medical emergency exception (see text here) does not cover the circumstances of the 10-year-old rape victim. “The medical emergency exception does not include rape and incest,” Nash told the Erik Wemple Blog on Thursday. “It just doesn’t. It’s really disingenuous for [Yost] to have made that comment.”

Insincere, yes, as well as condescending and paternalistic: who are Yost and Watters to question a family’s decisions about the medical care of their 10-year-old daughter who was raped?

The tl;dr version of it all: Fox News has been extraordinarily strong in defending this story – first by doubting its accuracy and then by deflecting attention to the real problem here in the game. It’s as if the network couldn’t face the realities behind a sea change in legal policy that it had long advocated. Maybe he had set aside a couple of weeks to celebrate Dobbs decision and did not expect the dire ramifications of the judgment to materialize so quickly. Watters, Carlson & Co.’s panic suggests they were more inclined to ridicule the scenarios that would unfold without them than heed warnings from pro-choice voices roe.

“As much as they panic, it’s more a matter of politics than concern for the patient,” Nash says.

As the Erik Wemple Blog noted on Twitterthis national story revolves around the work of regional and local newspapers in the Red States, where the nightmarish postalroe Stories will continue to emerge. That means exposing the ramifications of the Supreme Court decision will fall in large part to a hollowed-out sector of the American media. And Fox News will be there to throw cold water on the shovels these overworked reporters are churning out.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2022/07/14/10-year-old-rape-story-fox-news-criticism/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=wp_lifestyle opinion | How the story of a 10-year-old Ohio rape victim reflects the post-Roe world Fox News wanted

Chris Estrada

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