Indiana doctor Caitlin Bernard faces disciplinary hearing over abortion of 10-year-old Ohio rape victim

INDIANAPOLIS– A hearing into possible disciplinary action opened Thursday for an Indianapolis doctor who spoke publicly about providing an abortion to a 10-year-old rape victim from Ohio, with a finger pointing at how the case has become a political flashpoint in the national abortion debate.

Indiana’s Republican Attorney General has accused Dr. Caitlin Bernard of violating state law by failing to report the girl’s abuse to Indiana authorities. She is also accused of violating federal patient confidentiality laws by telling a reporter about the girl’s treatment.

Bernard and his attorneys argue that the doctor followed Indiana’s child abuse reporting requirements to hospital staff and that the girl’s rape was already being investigated by authorities in the Indiana state. ‘Ohio. Lawyers for Bernard also say she did not release any identifying information about the girl that allegedly violated privacy laws.

The Indianapolis Star cited the girl’s case in a July 1 article that sparked a national political outcry in the weeks following the U.S. Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade last June, enforcing an Ohio law that banned abortions after six weeks of pregnancy. Some Republican media and politicians incorrectly suggested that Bernard fabricated the story, until a 27-year-old man was charged with rape in Columbus, Ohio.

Dr. Caitlin Bernard in Indianapolis on September 28, 2022.

Kaiti Sullivan for The Washington Post via Getty Images

Bernard’s attorney, Alice Morical, told the state Medical Licensing Board on Thursday that the doctor has reported child abuse cases several times a year and that a social worker at the hospital had confirmed with the Ohio Child Welfare Office that it was safe for the girl to leave with her mother.

“Dr. Bernard could not have anticipated the atypical and intense scrutiny this story has received,” Morical said. “She didn’t expect politicians to say she made up the story.”

Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita’s complaint asked the licensing board to impose “appropriate disciplinary action,” but did not specify the penalty sought.

Amid the wave of attention the girl’s case received last summer, Rokita, who is staunchly anti-abortion, told Fox News he would investigate Bernard’s actions, calling her “an activist for abortion acting as a physician”.

Deputy Attorney General Cory Voight argued Thursday that the board must address what he called a “gross breach” of patient privacy and Bernard’s failure to notify the Department of Health Services. childhood and rape Indiana police.

“There hasn’t been a case like this before the board,” Voight said. “No doctor has been so brazen in pursuing his own agenda.”

Indiana’s Board of Trustees – made up of six doctors and an attorney appointed or reappointed by Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb – could vote on whether to impose sanctions on Thursday after hearing what is expected to be several hours of testimony. State law gives the board wide latitude, allowing it to issue letters of reprimand or suspend, revoke, or place on probation a physician’s license.

Ohio’s law mandating a near-ban on abortion was in effect for about two months, before being suspended due to a lawsuit against it. Indiana’s Republican-dominated legislature approved a statewide abortion ban weeks after the Ohio girl’s case drew attention, but abortions have continued to be permitted in the state pending a ruling by the Indiana Supreme Court on the constitutionality of the ban.

Bernard tried unsuccessfully to block Rokita’s investigation last fall, though an Indianapolis judge wrote that Rokita had committed “clearly unlawful violations” of state privacy laws with his public comments. on investigating the doctor before filing the medical license complaint against her.


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