By Sharon Bernstein
(Reuters) - The man charged with raping and impregnating a 9-year-old Ohio girl who traveled to neighboring Indiana to obtain an abortion last year pleaded guilty on Wednesday and was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole.
Gerson Fuentes, who was the live-in boyfriend of the child's mother, confessed to raping the child in a police interview, and DNA evidence showed he fathered the aborted fetus, prosecutors said in court in Franklin, County, Ohio, on Wednesday.
The case made international headlines because the child and her mother sought the abortion in Indiana just days after the Supreme Court of the United States overturned the half-century old Roe v Wade decision that guaranteed the right to the procedure.
The high court's decision led a judge to reinstate a law in Ohio banning the procedure after about six weeks of pregnancy. The child was six weeks and four days pregnant when her doctor tested her, prosecutors said.
Ohio's ban has since been put on hold by the courts.
The decision to seek an abortion in Indiana set off an uproar in that state, leading Indiana's Republican Attorney General to accuse the doctor who performed the abortion of misconduct.
Fuentes will be eligible for parole after serving at least 25 years under a sentence imposed by Judge Julie Lynch. Fuentes is not a citizen of the United States and could also face deportation.
Lynch said in court that she was refraining from rebuking Fuentes further because of requests from the victim's family, and that while she considered the charges among the "worst" offenses, she would rule without comment.
Prosecutor Dan Lenert said that possible abuse of the child was reported on June 22, 2022, after test results showed she was pregnant. The Supreme Court decision in Dobbs v Jackson Women's Health Organization overturning the right to an abortion was issued two days later.
The girl was 9 years old when she was raped twice by Fuentes and 10 when she sought care in Indiana, prosecutors said.
(Reporting by Sharon Bernstein; additional reporting by Steve Gorman; Editing by Bill Berkrot)