INDIANAPOLIS (CN) — A doctor who provided abortion services for a 10-year-old rape victim sued the state’s Republican attorney general to stop investigations she says are based on frivolous consumer complaints.
The lawsuit was filed Thursday in Marion County on behalf of Dr. Caitlin Bernard and her medical partner Dr. Amy Caldwell, who claim Attorney General Todd Rokita has used dubious complaints about them to launch multiple investigations and issue subpoenas seeking medical records.
The pair of medical professionals are seeking a permanent injunction against Rokita preventing him from initiating investigations based on a consumer complaint before determining the complaint is valid.
“The Attorney General has completely ignored the requirement to determine that consumer complaints have 'merit' before he can investigate and has instead used facially invalid consumer complaints to justify multiple, duplicative, and overbroad investigations into law-abiding physicians—investigations which are intended neither to identify violations of law nor to resolve disputes between regulated professionals and bona fide consumers,” the lawsuit states.
Bernard gained nationwide media attention this summer after it became public that she had performed an abortion on a 10-year girl from Ohio who had crossed state lines to obtain the procedure in Indiana after allegedly being raped.
Following that incident, Rokita made media appearances and issued public statements about Bernard and said that his office was looking into her to determine if she followed all reporting requirements for the abortion procedure.
“Since then, Rokita has continuously made false and misleading statements about the facts of the case to local and national news sources, even after it was confirmed by public records requests that Dr. Bernard complied with all applicable reporting laws. Through this lawsuit, Dr. Bernard and Dr. Caldwell, along with their patients, seek to stop Rokita from infringing upon patient-doctor confidentiality and prevent future unchecked oversteps by the Attorney General,” lawyers for Bernard and Caldwell said in a press release.
The lawsuit claims that the complaints levied against Bernard are frivolous and lack basic information such as her telephone number or zip code, and that some complainants noted they had only learned of Bernard through news stories and not through any direct interaction with the doctor.
The investigations mentioned in the lawsuit cite subpoenas issued by Rokita’s office that seek to gain access to the medical file of the abortion patient in the news stories.
These investigations, according to the lawsuit, came after Rokita’s office got a hold of the termination of pregnancy report, or TPR, that showed Bernard had properly reported the rape of the 10-year-old victim.
“Defendants’ current targets are physicians who provide medical care, including abortion services permitted under Indiana law. But there is no reason to believe Defendants will stop there. All licensed professionals face the exact same dangers as Plaintiffs,” the lawsuit states.
According to court documents, the two doctors are seeking to quash the subpoenas in a separate legal action.
Kelly Stevenson, spokeswoman for the Indiana Attorney General’s Office, issued a statement defending the office's approach to investigations.
“By statutory obligation, we investigate thousands of potential licensing, privacy, and other violations a year. A majority of the complaints we receive are, in fact, from nonpatients. Any investigations that arise as a result of potential violations are handled in a uniform manner and narrowly focused," Stevenson said. "We will discuss this particular matter further through the judicial filings we make.”
Subscribe to Closing Arguments
Sign up for new weekly newsletter Closing Arguments to get the latest about ongoing trials, major litigation and hot cases and rulings in courthouses around the U.S. and the world.