Lawyers rip Indiana doctor who spoke out about a 10-year-old’s abortion as she faces panel
An Indianapolis doctor who spoke publicly about providing an abortion to a 10-year-old rape victim could face disciplinary action as state lawyers ripped her during a Thursday hearing that could change her future as a physician.
The doctor, Caitlin Bernard, has been accused by Indiana‘s Republican Attorney General Todd Rokita of not reporting the child abuse to state authorities.
‘No physician has been as brazen in pursuit of their own agenda,’ state attorneys told the board about Bernard.
Bernard is also accused of breaking federal patient privacy laws by telling a member of the media about her treatment of the child, who was from Ohio.
The doctor has defended her actions from the start, and told the state Medical Licensing Board – the panel that will ultimately determine her fate – that she abided by Indiana’s reporting requirements by notifying hospital social workers about the child abuse.
The board heard arguments from both sides on whether Bernard should face punishment, including revoking her license, but took no action.
Dr. Caitlin Bernard has been accused by Indiana’s Republican Attorney General Todd Rokita of not reporting the child abuse to state authorities
Bernard spoke publicly about an abortion case involving a 10-year-old rape victim
Rokita filed the complaint against Bernard last summer after she went to the press about the case and on Thursday she faced a disciplinary board
Bernard told the panel that Ohio was already investigating the rape of the child, and that privacy laws were not broken because she didn’t release any identifying information.
Indiana’s Deputy Attorney General Cory Voight said that ‘there’s been no case like this before the board.’
‘No physician has been as brazen in pursuit of their own agenda.’
Voight argued that the panel must address what he labeled an ‘egregious violation’ of patient privacy, in addition to her alleged failure to notify Indiana’s Department of Child Services and law enforcement about the rape.
Bernard’s attorney, Alice Morical, told the board that her client has reported instances of abuse of patients many times a year.
Voight asked Bernard why she told a reporter about the Ohio girl’s case, and then discussed the case further in other interviews with the media.
‘I think that it’s incredibly important for people to understand the real-world impacts of the laws of this country about abortion,’ replied Bernard
‘I think it’s important for people to know what patients will have to go through because of legislation that is being passed, and a hypothetical does not make that impact.’
The Indianapolis Star’s story about the girl’s case sparked a national political uproar last summer in the weeks following the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, which subsequently put into effect an Ohio law that prohibited abortions after the six week mark of pregnancy.
As a result of the article, some news outlets and GOP politicians falsely suggested that Bernard made up the story, until such a time that a 27-year-old man was charged with the rape in Columbus, Ohio.
Dr. Tracey Wilkinson, left, a pediatric doctor with IU School of Medicine, and Dr. Caroline E. Rouse, a maternal fetal medicine doctor with IU School of Medicine, line up outside of a conference room to support of Dr. Caitlin Bernard on Thursday
Dr. Caitlin Bernard, left, sits between attorneys John Hoover and Alice Morical for the disciplinary hearing
The Indianapolis Star’s story about the girl’s case sparked a national political uproar last summer in the weeks following the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade
Rokita’s complaint asked the licensing board impose ‘appropriate disciplinary action’ but is not seeking a specific punishment.
The board took no action during the hearing.
Last summer, amid the exploding wave of attention the case was receiving, Rokita, who is pro-life, called Bernard an ‘abortion activist.’
Bernard fought back against Rokita’s bevy of accusations, saying: ‘I think if the attorney general, Todd Rokita, had not chosen to make this his political stunt we wouldn’t be here today.’
The Indiana board, in front of whom this case is being tried, is comprised of six doctors and one attorney who was appointed GOP Governor Eric Holcomb.
The panel will vote whether to impose any penalties following several hours of testimony. Indiana state law gives the the board the authority to issue a letter of reprimand, or suspend, revoke or place on probation a doctor’s medical license.
Bernard was previously unsuccessful in her attempt to block Rokita’s investigation. Despite the failure, an Indiana judge wrote that the attorney general had made ‘clearly unlawful breaches of state confidentiality laws with his public comments about investigating the medical professional.