Nieman Lab has an excellent piece about the 10-year-old Ohio rape victim, and why a newspaper could only find one person to verify the girl’s abortion

I was going to ignore this story because it keeps getting more awful by the day in terms of the terrible people who are turning out (again) to look like idiots (Glenn Greenwald, the “fact checker Glenn Kessler at the Washington Post, Jonathan Turley, etc.).

There is a piece up at Nieman Lab by Laura Hazard Owen that gives a nice run-down of the major moving parts of this terrible story, and looks at whether journalism, in the odd way it is currently constituted, is ready to report on a right-wing America where people are afraid to talk to reporters because the weight of the MAGA social media and legal world might come raining down upon them.

First, some of the moving parts, including discussion of Dr. Caitlin Bernard, the Indianapolis OB/GYN who took the call from the panicked Ohio doctor who was trying to help a pregnant 10-year-old rape victim get help outside of his state — a state that had just banned nearly every abortion not involving the emergency saving of a mother’s life

This situation was reported by two women reporters at the Indianapolis Star. Then the right-wing media machine began its work to discredit the factually accurate story. They got help from the Washington Post‘s fact checker Glenn Kessler.

Says Nieman Lab:

The debate over the [abortion] story’s veracity started with a Washington Post “Fact Checker” column. In “A one-source story about a 10-year-old and an abortion goes viral,” the Post’s Glenn Kessler wrote:

The only source cited for the anecdote was Bernard. She’s on the record, but there is no indication that the newspaper made other attempts to confirm her account. The story’s lead reporter, Shari Rudavsky, did not respond to a query asking whether additional sourcing was obtained. A Gannett spokeswoman provided a comment from Bro Krift, the newspaper’s executive editor: “The facts and sourcing about people crossing state lines into Indiana, including the 10-year-old girl, for abortions are clear. We have no additional comment at this time.”

Kessler notes that Bernard “declined to identify to the Fact Checker her colleague or the city where the child was located” and that after “a spot check,” he was unable to find evidence that the rape had been reported in Ohio. He wrote:

This is a very difficult story to check. Bernard is on the record, but obtaining documents or other confirmation is all but impossible without details that would identify the locality where the rape occurred.

Kessler doesn’t appear to consider the professional, non-nefarious reasons that a doctor might have for declining to share the names of her colleagues, or why she might be loath to (plus, due to privacy laws, legally prohibited from) disclose the name and address of her patient who was raped to a national newspaper.

“An abortion by a 10-year-old is pretty rare,” Kessler notes. (Oh, that “by.”) “The Columbus Dispatch reported that in 2020, 52 people under the age of 15 received an abortion in Ohio.” Definitions of “rare” may vary, but if 52 under-15-year-olds got abortions in Ohio in 2020, that’s one a week — and it’s just abortions that were reported, during a pandemic when a lot of abortion clinics were closed.

It goes on from there, but Nieman Lab ends up questioning whether American journalism, especially men in journalism, are ready to confront a world where women’s bodies and their health care have been criminalized in so many ways that the last thing they will do is go on the record with a reporter about the fact that doctors and patients are being turned into felons.

It’s important to note that nearly all the heroes thus far in this contemptible saga are women, and the villains are men. Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post, in particular, is so far removed from the realities of what the striking down of Roe means for women, that he could not even begin to conceptualize why his “fact checking” story was so far off the mark.

The Wall Street Journal also jumped on the bandwagon trying to discredit the 10-year-old rape victim story with this July 12 editorial, to which they later had to add an editor’s note verifying the story’s accuracy after the actual rapist was arrested.

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