Saturday, February 4, 2023 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Indiana AG goes after doctor who performed abortion for 10-year-old rape victim

The attorney general urged the Indiana Medical Licensing Board to discipline the doctor, who said she provided an abortion for a young girl who traveled from neighboring Ohio.

INDIANAPOLIS (CN) — Indiana's Republican attorney general filed a complaint Wednesday claiming a doctor violated the privacy of a 10-year-old rape victim who traveled to the Hoosier State to get an abortion. 

Attorney General Todd Rokita filed the administrative action with the Indiana Medical Licensing Board alleging Dr. Caitlin Bernard violated the minor patient’s privacy when she failed to obtain written permission to disclose the girl's medical information.

In addition, Rokita claims Bernard also failed to timely inform authorities in Indiana of the suspected child abuse of the young victim. He is asking the medical board to impose "the appropriate disciplinary sanction" against Bernard and order her to pay legal costs.

“Dr. Bernard violated the law, her patient’s trust, and the standards for the medical profession when she disclosed her patient’s abuse, medical issues, and medical treatment to a reporter at an abortion rights rally to further her political agenda. Simply concealing the patient’s name falls far short of her legal and ethical duties here,” Rokita said in a statement Wednesday announcing the complaint.

The case of the 10-year-old abortion patient made national news over the summer in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision that overturned Roe v. Wade and ended the federal right to abortion.

At the time, Ohio was under a so-called fetal heartbeat abortion law that banned all abortions once a heartbeat could be detected, which is normally around six weeks, before many women know they are pregnant.

While the Ohio law is currently blocked, it was in effect at the time that the minor traveled from Ohio to Indiana to obtain a medication-induced abortion from Bernard. 

Rokita's complaint comes just weeks after Bernard sued the attorney general to stop investigations into her and another doctor that she says are based on frivolous consumer complaints.

In her lawsuit filed Nov. 3 in Marion County, Bernard claims the consumer complaints against her that were used to initiate the investigations lack merit and come from people who have had no contact with her. As part of the probes, Rokita’s office sought to gain access to the 10-year-old patient's medical file and Bernard sued to stop him.

In a court hearing in that case last week, Bernard testified under oath that she had followed all requirements and that child abuse authorities in Ohio were already investigating the case before the minor traveled to Indiana.

In response to the administrative complaint brought by Rokita, Bernard’s attorney Kathleen DeLaney said in a statement Wednesday that the filing is a sign that the attorney general had “apparently abandoned his investigations of the frivolous consumer complaints.”

“The Administrative Action filed today by Mr. Rokita is clearly a last-ditch effort to intimidate Dr. Bernard and other providers of abortion care," DeLaney said. "The evidence and testimony from last week’s hearing confirmed that Dr. Bernard complied with all reporting requirements, cooperated with law enforcement officials, and discussed a case example only in a de-identified way, within the bounds of applicable privacy laws."

Bernard’s legal team also says evidence provided in court proves the doctor followed the child abuse reporting requirements by reporting the suspected abuse to a hospital’s social work department, which they claim is the correct procedure given the alleged abuse happened in another state and would not fall under the jurisdiction of Indiana law enforcement.

“Mr. Rokita is doubling down on the frivolous consumer complaints by referring them to the licensing authorities. Though I am disappointed he has put my client in this position, we are not surprised given Mr. Rokita’s consistent efforts to use his office to seek to punish those with whom he disagrees at the expense of Indiana taxpayers,” DeLaney said.

It is unclear how long the Indiana Medical Licensing Board will take to reach its decision.

Read the Top 8

Sign up for the Top 8, a roundup of the day's top stories delivered directly to your inbox Monday through Friday.

Loading
Loading...