Indiana physician Dr. Caitlin Bernard defends actions in abortion of 10-year-old girl
INDIANAPOLIS — An Indianapolis doctor who provided abortion medication to a 10-year-old Ohio rape victim defended his actions before a judge on Monday in an episode that garnered national attention in the weeks after that the United States Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade.
Dr. Caitlin Bernard testified during the second day of a hearing about an attempt to block Indiana’s Republican attorney general from searching patients’ medical records. The attorney general’s office said it was investigating whether Bernard properly reported child abuse and possibly violated patient confidentiality laws by telling a reporter about the girl’s case.
The Marion County Judge said she expects to issue a ruling next week on whether to issue a preliminary injunction against the attorney general’s office.
Bernard treated the girl in Indianapolis at the end of June, as the girl was unable to have an abortion in neighboring Ohio. That’s because Ohio’s “fetal heartbeat” law went into effect with the Supreme Court ruling. These laws prohibit abortions from the time heart activity can be detected in an embryo, which is usually around the sixth week of pregnancy.
Bernard and his attorneys maintain that the girl’s abuse had already been reported to Ohio police and child protective services officials before the doctor saw the child. Bernard said during his nearly 90 minutes of testimony that his trial was to protect the girl’s privacy.
“There is no evidence that a crime was committed…so no investigation should be necessary,” Bernard said.
Assistant Attorney General Caryn Nieman-Szyper argued that state law still requires Indiana police and child protection officials to be immediately notified of the abuse so they can assess the child’s safety even though an investigation had already begun in Ohio.
After Bernard told The Indianapolis Star that the girl was seeking an abortion, some Republican media outlets and politicians suggested his story was fabricated. President Joe Biden expressed his empathy for the child by signing an executive order protecting access to abortion.
Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita told Fox News in July he would look into whether Bernard violated child abuse notification or abortion reporting laws. Rokita continued the investigation even after a 27-year-old man was charged in Columbus, Ohio with raping the girl, and public records show Bernard met the three-day reporting window. required by Indiana for an abortion performed on a girl under 16. .
Nieman-Szyper said Bernard would not be investigated unless she disclosed the girl’s rape to a reporter to advance her own defense of abortion rights. Nieman-Szyper said Bernard failed to show she had permission from the girl’s family to discuss her care in public, exposing the child to national attention.
Bernard said she hadn’t seen the girl yet when she told the reporter about her as an example of the impact of tougher abortion laws across the country, but didn’t. did not reveal any identifying information about him.
“I said the patient was raped,” Bernard said. “This is how a 10-year-old girl gets pregnant.”
Bernard said she told a social worker at Indiana University that the girl was going to have an abortion. She said these staff members were the ones who ensured that reports of children were made to the proper authorities.
Marion County Judge Heather Welch gave attorneys a Wednesday deadline for additional court filings.
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