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Ohio man charged with raping 10-year-old who was forced to cross state lines to get an abortion

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NEW YORK (REUTERS) - An Ohio man has been charged with raping a 10-year-old girl who was then forced to travel to neighbouring Indiana to get an abortion, a case that President Joe Biden highlighted in voicing his outrage over the US Supreme Court's decision to eliminate a nationwide right to abortion.

Gerson Fuentes was arrested on Tuesday, according to court records, and arraigned on Wednesday (July 13) in Franklin County, Ohio, municipal court.

Fuentes, 27, who police said appears to be in the country illegally, confessed to raping the girl at least twice, a police investigator testified in court.

Fuentes is being held on US$2 million bond and is scheduled for a preliminary hearing on July 22. The victim in the case underwent an abortion in Indianapolis on June 30, according to the officer's testimony.

A statewide ban on abortions in Ohio after the sixth week of pregnancy - before many women are aware they are pregnant - went into effect just hours after the Supreme Court's June 24 ruling that struck down Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that had established a constitutional right to abortion.

The victim's plight gained attention this month when the Indianapolis Star newspaper reported she had to travel to Indiana to secure an abortion because she was three days past Ohio's six-week limit, which does not include exceptions for rape or incest.

Abortions after six weeks remain legal in Indiana, though the Republican-controlled state legislature is expected to consider new restrictions later this month.

Biden, a Democrat, spoke of the girl in remarks to reporters about abortion access. "Just imagine being that little girl - 10 years old," he said angrily at the White House on Friday.

A court-appointed defense attorney for Fuentes did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In all, 26 US states have either severely restricted abortions in the wake of the ruling or are expected to do so in the coming weeks and months.

Some conservatives had questioned the veracity of the Indianapolis Star story.

Republican Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost told the USA TODAY Network Ohio bureau on Tuesday that the details were "more likely than not a fabrication" because there had been no arrest and no evidence uncovered, Ohio's Columbus Dispatch reported.

But in a statement on Wednesday after the arrest, Mr Yost, who defended the state's six-week ban in state court after the Supreme Court decision, said, "My heart aches for the pain suffered by this young child. I am grateful for the diligent work of the Columbus Police Department in securing a confession and getting a rapist off the street."

united statesCOURT & CRIMEAbortion