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Ohio minors sought abortions out of state after being sexually assaulted, affidavits say

At least two health providers said they had cases in which girls had to travel to another state to get access after Ohio's abortion ban went into effect.
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The rape of a 10-year-old Ohio girl who had reportedly traveled to Indiana for an abortion is not the only case of a minor who had to cross state lines in the wake of a state law banning virtually all forms of the procedure, health providers say.

In affidavits filed this month included as part of a lawsuit challenging the Ohio law — which went into effect after the U.S. Supreme Court in June overturned the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling that guaranteed a constitutional right to an abortion — two separate providers said they each had a case in which a minor was sexually assaulted and had to travel out of state to terminate their pregnancies.

Aeran Trick, the operations manager of the Women’s Med Center of Dayton, said that they were contacted in July about a 16-year-old in southwest Ohio who had been sexually assaulted, allegedly by a family member.

The girl could not legally access an abortion in Ohio “due to the presence of fetal heart tones,” Trick said, so she traveled to Indianapolis, where the center operates a sister clinic. Law enforcement in Ohio was aware of the case, Trick added, and they had to go to Indianapolis to retrieve tissue to be tested as part of a sexual assault investigation.

“I am concerned that Ohio’s ban and the need to travel increasingly far distances to obtain abortion care not only causes unimaginable harm to these young victims, but could also hamper law enforcement’s ability to investigate and prosecute these cases in the future,” Trick said in the affidavit.

In another case, a minor who was sexually assaulted was taken to Michigan by her mother for an abortion, according to an affidavit by Dr. Adarsh Krishen, the chief medical officer of Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio, which is a plaintiff in the suit.

“This patient experienced immense trauma from the assault itself and then endured further trauma from a forensic interview alongside a physical exam to collect evidence for the ongoing police investigation,” Krishen said in the affidavit. “This trauma was further exacerbated by needing to wait over 3 weeks for her appointment. In each step of this process she felt the complete denial of bodily autonomy and safety, something that all people, especially children, should unequivocally have at all times.”

The affidavits were first reported by the Ohio Capital Journal. NBC News could not immediately verify the accounts given by Trick and Krishen, and their offices did not respond to a request for further details.

The initial report of the 10-year-old girl who had to get an abortion outside of Ohio because of the state’s ban drew attention — and scrutiny from Republicans such as state Attorney General Dave Yost — when a doctor, Caitlin Bernard, told The Indianapolis Star about the case.

President Joe Biden highlighted it as an example of how ending the constitutional right to an abortion had imposed undue hardships in states with so-called trigger laws, or bans on abortion that were to go into effect only if Roe were struck down.

“Ten years old — 10 years old — raped, six weeks pregnant, already traumatized, was forced to travel to another state,” Biden said during a speech in the White House in July, when he signed an executive order protecting abortion access.

An investigation led to the indictment of a 27-year-old suspect on two felony counts of rape. A trial is scheduled for next month in Franklin County.

Yost’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the affidavits.

The Ohio Supreme Court this month dismissed a case filed in June by abortion providers who argued that Ohio’s constitution has broad protections for individual liberties that would safeguard abortion access.

But another suit brought by the ACLU of Ohio on behalf of the state’s remaining abortion providers remains before a lower court judge, who has temporarily blocked the statewide ban on abortions through Oct. 12. A court hearing on the matter is scheduled for Oct. 7.

In a prior statement regarding the initial lawsuit, Yost disagreed that the right to an abortion is protected under state law. He is one of several defendants in the current suit.

“Races don’t start at the finish line, and lawsuits don’t start in the final court,” he said. “Aside from filing the wrong action in the wrong court, they are wrong as well on Ohio law. Abortion is not in the Ohio Constitution.”

In the wake of the overturning of Roe, 13 states have put laws in place restricting most abortions. Ohio’s law banning abortions, if kept in place, would prohibit the procedure with only limited exceptions for the life and the health of the mother.

Medical providers said in their affidavits that they have been overwhelmed by the ban and were forced to cancel hundreds of appointments this summer, with patients facing difficult choices about what to do.

“Many patients broke down in tears in our office,” Sharon Liner, the medical director of Planned Parenthood Southwest Ohio, said in the affidavit. “Many patients that we could not reach by phone who came to our health center expecting to have their appointment were extremely upset; some threatened to hurt themselves because they were so distraught.”