Ohio girls are raped into motherhood. After rape at OSU, she was nearly one | Opinion

·6 min read

Amelia Robinson is the Columbus Dispatch's opinion and community engagement editor. Twitter @1AmeliaRobinson

For a long while it was easy to overlook the little skinny girl who lived on my Aunt Cathy's street in Cleveland in the 1990s.

The girl was only 11 and couldn't have weighed more than 80 pounds.

I was already in my late teens and only in town during breaks from my studies at Ohio University. 

People may have missed her at first, but no one could overlook the girl when her belly grew fatter and fatter.

As it did, whispers got louder and louder and a man was charged with raping her.

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He was eventually convicted on a lesser charge and the girl, I am told, had a  miscarriage.

Her ordeal was clearly not over.

She got pregnant again and again by I can only imagine who.

She was a teenager the last time I saw her. A kid was on each of her narrow hips. One hugged her around her waist.

Case of Columbus girl shines light on a dark issue

The memory of that little skinny girl popped in my head when news that the Ohio girl taken to Indiana for an abortion was from here.

More: How many young girls get pregnant by rape isn't known, experts say. But the health risks are clear.

The 11-year-old girl's story was not about abortion, but like the 10-year-old Columbus girl, she fell victim to a predator and was failed by a society that refuses to see the reality of child sexual abuse.

Columbus resident Gerson Fuentes was arrested and charged with rape after police say he confessed to raping the 10-year-old at least twice.

More: Letters: My 10-year-old granddaughter is into unicorns. Ohio would force her to give birth

Her abortion which received international attention, came after the Supreme Court ruled people have no constitutional right to an abortion and Ohio's so-called heartbeat bill kicked in.

Until Fuentes' arrest, the all-too-real fact that a real Ohio girl was violated was questioned by politicians who knew better, but acted worse than anyone with a heart that beats should.  

More: Arrest made in rape of Ohio girl that led to Indiana abortion drawing international attention

They know innocent kids are victimized in our city, in our state and in our country.

That's no secret.

The Centers for Disease Control says at least one in four girls and one in 13 boys experience childhood sexual abuse.

Too often — once is too often and we know it happens more than once — the person violated into motherhood is a minor.

'Do we even understand her little body?'

Jun 24, 2022; Columbus, OH, USA;  Alexis Voss, Obetz, wears her sign on her shirt, during an abortion rights protest at the Ohio State House, after the Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v Wade.
Jun 24, 2022; Columbus, OH, USA; Alexis Voss, Obetz, wears her sign on her shirt, during an abortion rights protest at the Ohio State House, after the Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v Wade.

Tara Seward knows all too well that minors can become pregnant after rape. She was much older than 10 when it happened to her, but  it still left a scar she still feels.

Having graduated high school early, Seward left Dublin for Ohio State University at age 16.

She was raped by an acquaintance, a popular student athlete she met through a friend, a short time later. Seward said she didn't tell even her close friends after the attack and — like many victims —never reported it to police.

The rail of a girl learned she was pregnant eight weeks after the assault and got an abortion after discussing options with her mother.

More: Do 10-year-olds meet 'life of mother' abortion exemptions? Ohio lawmakers, doctors divided

Seward is now the mother of four and has served as a surrogate for two infertile couples. Having had multiple pregnancies including a miscarriage that required a D&C to remove the fetus, she knows how complicated and painful reproduction can be at any age.

Tara Seward  of Dublin attend the Columbus Metro Club's discussion on Abortion in Ohio
Tara Seward of Dublin attend the Columbus Metro Club's discussion on Abortion in Ohio

When she heard about the 10-year-old Columbus girl, Seward said she thought about her own 10-year-old daughter and what would happen if her girl were raped and became pregnant.

"What does that even mean?" she asked rhetorically. "Do we even understand her little body?"

Girls can start having periods as young as 8 years old, according to the Mayo Clinic. 

They are starting earlier nationally.  A 2020 CDC report found that the median age for the start of menstruation dropped from 12.1 in 1995 to 11.9 between 2013 and 2017.

Seward says she should not have to put her little girl on birth control pills to protect her from the possibility of being forced to have a rapist's child.

Hundreds of little pregnant girls have gotten abortions

Jun 24, 2022; Columbus, OH, USA;  Carol Garrabrant, holds a sign that says " I fought for reproductive right in the 60's and 70's, and now I have to fight again in my 60's and 70's" during an abortion rights protest at the Ohio State House, after the Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v Wade. She became emotional when talking about what this means for her grandchildren.
Jun 24, 2022; Columbus, OH, USA; Carol Garrabrant, holds a sign that says " I fought for reproductive right in the 60's and 70's, and now I have to fight again in my 60's and 70's" during an abortion rights protest at the Ohio State House, after the Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v Wade. She became emotional when talking about what this means for her grandchildren.

Seward  said a woman or a girl should not have to divulge her reproductive history or expose the most traumatic experience of her life to avoid having an attacker's offspring.

But as it stands, doing so would not change anything.

The state's new abortion law does not have an exemption for pregnant children or mental impairment.

There are no exemptions for rape or incest, and as my colleagues from the USA TODAY Network Ohio Bureau just reported, Ohio's Republican lawmakers who control the state have no plans to change that. 

There is much debate among doctors, lawyers, and lawmakers about  which circumstances an abortion could be administrated if the pregnancy presented "a serious risk of substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function" or death of the pregnant person.

More: Ohio's Republican lawmakers have no plans to exempt rape, incest from abortion ban

More: Do 10-year-olds meet 'life of mother' abortion exemptions? Ohio lawmakers, doctors divided

A 2018 study by CDC researchers found that nearly 3 million women in the U.S. experienced a rape-related pregnancy during their lifetime.

Data was not broken down by age. We may not know how many child rape victims have gotten pregnant, but we do know little girls have gotten abortions in this state.

In 2020,  the Ohio Department of Health says 521 minors received abortions in Ohio. That includes 52 who were younger than 15.

For that age group, there were 63 such procedures in 2019, 54 in 2018, 61 in 2017 and 76 in 2016.

The 10-year high came in 2010 when there were 182 abortions given to girls younger than age 15.

More: Monstrous lies about 10-year-old's abortion display 'sheer cowardice' | Opinion

The CDC says 5.2% of women raped by an acquaintance became pregnant compared to nearly 7% raped by strangers and 26% raped by a current or former intimate partner.

The  member of Positively Blue — a progressive group formed by Dublin moms that seeks to get women more involved in their communities and politics —,  wondered if she should have fought harder.

It took her years to get to the point where she could forgive herself for the abortion even though she is firmly pro-choice and knows it was the right decision.

She graduated Ohio State in 2004 with a degree in Math and has a good job.

"I am where I am because of all of the things that have happened in my life. I would not change anything at this point," Seward said.

Amelia Robinson is the Columbus Dispatch's opinion and community engagement editor. Twitter @1AmeliaRobinson

Columbus Dispatch editorial page editor and community engagement editor Amelia Robinson in the 62 E. Broad St. newsroom on Monday, Nov. 8, 2021.
Columbus Dispatch editorial page editor and community engagement editor Amelia Robinson in the 62 E. Broad St. newsroom on Monday, Nov. 8, 2021.

This article originally appeared on The Columbus Dispatch: Amelia Robinson: Girls do become pregnant after being raped