Joe Biden relied on the story of a 10-year-old rape victim who had to travel to another state to get an abortion last week as part of his narrative in support of an executive order he signed after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. The only problem with the story is it appears to be completely unverified.
In addition to a number of gaffes and teleprompter-reading errors, Biden told the story of the young Ohio girl as part of his explanation of the order that purports to protect national access to abortions.
He repeated the story he said had been reported a week earlier that involved the girl being transported to Indiana to terminate the pregnancy and “maybe save her life.” In one of his reading bungles, Biden appeared to say “terminate the presidency” instead of the line prepared for the recital of the story.
At the White House press briefing later Friday, press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre was asked if the Department of Justice had launched an investigation into the identity of the rapist who had impregnated the young girl described in the story Biden related.
Jean-Pierre had no answer prepared for the question and had to rely on the typical response of referring reporters to the DOJ. She added that she had no information on the identity of “this young woman.” She said Biden “spoke to that young woman” just to show how extreme the decision to overturn Roe was.
The story cited by Biden appeared to be based on an article published on July 1 in the Indianapolis Star. The paper included a single source for its reporting, an Indianapolis abortion advocate and obstetrician-gynecologist named Dr. Caitlin Bernard.
The article said that Bernard took a call from a child abuse doctor in Ohio just three days after the court issued the order reversing Roe. The article claimed that the child therefore missed the deadline for obtaining an abortion by three days because of Ohio’s trigger law that went into effect with the end of Roe.
Major news outlets around the country and internationally picked up the story after it was first published in the Star. The Washington Post ran a report on Saturday about a “fact check” on the story.
The paper’s fact-checker, Glenn Kessler, found that Bernard was the only source and there was no indication that the paper made any attempts to confirm the accuracy of her claims. The reporter who wrote the story did not respond to requests for comment about whether any verification was sought or obtained.
Kessler’s report also noted that Ohio law requires any physician to report any case of physical or sexual abuse of a child to law enforcement officers. A criminal investigation would have presumably been opened if the legally required report were made. Kessler’s investigation found that no report of the described rape had been made.
Politicians are known, of course, to play loosely with facts when making claims on controversial subjects. Even though Biden has trouble reading what they feed to him, his speechwriters are no exception.