Columbus Pediatrician Opens Up About Child Pregnancy After 10-Year-Old Girl Aborted
Days after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, a lot of people wouldn’t believe Indianapolis Star report stating that a 10-year-old girl from Ohio was forced to cross state lines for a legal abortion.
Some prominent Republicans, including Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost, publicly denounced the veracity of the article.
But at the end of July, The dispatch confirmed that it was true.
The girl became pregnant after being raped. And due to an Ohio law implemented on June 24 banning abortion procedures after fetal heart activity was detected, she was forced to travel to Indiana to terminate her pregnancy.
What we know: A 10-year-old girl from Ohio had an abortion in Indiana
The news spread across the country and remained at the forefront of the national conversation as the girl’s accused rapist, Gershon Fuentes, 27, was arrested and charged with two counts of child rape.
The harrowing situation has sparked anger and raised questions. How could someone so young get pregnant? How would she know? And what physical toll would a pregnancy have on a teenage girl?
Dr. Elise Berlan, a Columbus pediatrician and professor in the Department of Pediatrics at Ohio State University College of Medicine, spoke to The Dispatch about these questions and more.
The day the Supreme Court released its decision on Roe v. Wade, Berlan also co-wrote two political statements on behalf of the American Academy of Pediatrics regarding counseling options for pregnant adolescents and the rights of adolescents to confidential care when considering an abortion.
Q Is there any evidence to suggest that young girls go through puberty at a younger age?
A. What we have found in research is that puberty has advanced slightly over the past few decades. The major change, however, was more at puberty and not so much at the age of first menstruation.
Q By “small” you seem to be suggesting that any increase is almost insignificant?
A. This is something that has received a lot of attention. People worry about the timing of puberty because it has so much impact on a youngster’s life, and people often worry about the reasons behind it.
Q Has the research indicated what might be driving even a small jump in how quickly girls reach puberty?
A. The primary determinant of puberty is actually genetics, and we understand that hasn’t changed in recent decades, but the young person’s overall health and social environment can impact the timing of puberty. puberty. The general state of health of young people as well as their social environment have changed over the last decades.
A. Research is still ongoing on this, but some of the health impacts on the timing of puberty include being overweight and we have certainly seen changes in the proportions of young people who are overweight or obese, which tends to push the puberty earlier. We have also seen changes in the stress young people face.
Q Does it surprise you to learn that a 10 year old girl could get pregnant?
A. No way. Girls start puberty as early as 8 years old, so it’s normal to start puberty anywhere between 8 and 12 years old. The idea that a girl can be pregnant at age 10 is not in itself a surprise because in reality anyone who is menstruating can become pregnant. The circumstances are tragic and alarming, but the biology of this one is not unusual.
Q How does pregnancy affect someone so young?
A. They are certainly more at risk of having adverse health effects. Pregnant youngsters may not be aware of it in the same way that adult women may be aware of a pregnancy. Young people tend to have more irregular periods than adults and a pregnant young person may not be familiar with the signs and symptoms of pregnancy and may delay seeking medical attention.
Q So, given that, how would someone so young, or the parents of the child, learn that there is a pregnancy?
A. Typically, pregnancy presents with a missed period. As pediatricians, we understand that periods are a vital sign and an indicator of a girl’s underlying health. A person who has missed periods or irregular periods really should have an evaluation from their health care provider. This really is the best way to be aware of a pregnancy: to become familiar with the normal menstrual pattern and if there is any deviation.
Eric Lagatta is a reporter for the Columbus Dispatch covering social justice issues and nonprofits. Contact him at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter