After weeks of conservatives claiming that the 10-year-old Ohio rape victim forced to drive to Indiana for an abortion was made up and collecting the support of mainstream journalists discounting the story, it turns out that it was completely true all along.
But there were some people out there who amplified that conspiracy theory right up to the end.
To the shock of absolutely no one, Jonathan Turley was amplifying this conspiracy theory right up to the end.
In his defense, it’s not his job to personally follow up on what journalists are reporting. But what IS his job — for reasons that escape all understanding — is explaining how the law works. On that point, he took yesterday’s debunking as an opportunity to double down on his stupidity from earlier in the week:
And by stupidity, we’re not talking about this “legal expert” failing to grasp that the law is “HIPAA” and not “HIPPA,” though that is a level of amateur-hour ignorance that really should disqualify him from future use of the title “expert.” It’s a little unfair to call this a spelling issue because after two years of morons going on about this fictitious law (collected in a whole Twitter account!), one would expect a law professor to be extra cautious before hitting send on anything about that statute. But NOPE!
No, we’re talking about his gobsmackingly dumb assertion that abortion rights “on paper” translate to abortion rights in reality.
He doesn’t understand why an Ohio victim would go to Indiana when the Ohio law provides caveats that should cover this case? Does he think they made this trip on a whim?!? People make these trips because all the legal exceptions are transparent public relations. Prosecutors are going to make these exceptions practically infeasible and doctors aren’t going to risk them. THAT is why people leave the state despite mealy-mouthed exceptions.
And because this train is never frigging late…
WHAT A SHOCK!
See how this might chill a doctor’s willingness to test the limits of these laws. Because remember, Indiana was the state where this was unequivocally legal.
I implore Turley to take just a second to consider that the simplest solution may be correct and the reason these laws are forcing people to leave the state is because these laws are designed to prevent abortions in the state.
And the media’s complete failure to correctly deal with this story underscores the impact Turley’s brand of legalistic dissembling will have.
From the Columbus Dispatch story yesterday that finally got everyone to admit that this all happened:
An analysis of Columbus police reports filed since May 9 found 50 reports of rape or sexual abuse involving a person 15 years or younger. That number of reports may also be underreported because of restrictions on public records related to reports initiated by mandated reporters. The report involving the 10-year-old girl falls into that category.
For a couple weeks, media outlets — some explicitly, some implicitly — told their audiences that the mere existence of a 10-year-old rape victim in Ohio was sufficiently unthinkable that it could be safely dismissed. And so people did, using this crutch to giddily hop around social media claiming that abortion bans couldn’t really be sending a girl across the border for treatment.
But it’s the notes you don’t play. This disinformation campaign was never about one specific child, but about erasing the other 49 children under 15 assaulted during this window — and the scores of others outside of Columbus. What about them? Many of those children could just as easily find themselves in the same position. Hell, at least some of them probably did.
So when non-partisan outlets spout off that “welp, we just can’t say that this happened” because they haven’t bothered to lock it down, they just lend mainstream credibility to conspiracy theories.
Just take a second to contextualize a story before spouting off about it.
Because all of this — all of it — is about quelling the outrage complacent Americans would feel if they knew how backwardly barbaric these laws are in practice. So we’ll hear that it isn’t happening. We’ll hear that, “Well, we just can’t say if it’s even possibly happening.” And we’ll hear that even if it’s happening, the law has got it covered.
It’s happening. It’s happening to all those other kids we aren’t hearing about. And these laws are absolutely, positively about making sure those kids don’t get treatment.
 I still can’t get over the number of outlets that went in with the “gosh, who can say if this is true?” position because Above the Law wasn’t even directly covering this case and we managed to get confirmation on July 2. We make mean jokes about bar examiners for a living! It pains us to be modest, but someone claiming to be the fact checker for the Washington FRIGGING Post — not to single out just one source that botched this — should be able to marshal support for a story before we can.
Joe Patrice is a senior editor at Above the Law and co-host of Thinking Like A Lawyer. Feel free to email any tips, questions, or comments. Follow him on Twitter if you’re interested in law, politics, and a healthy dose of college sports news. Joe also serves as a Managing Director at RPN Executive Search.