Doctor who performed viral 10-year-old victim’s abortion sues Indiana AG for defamation

Doctor who performed viral 10-year-old victim’s abortion sues Indiana AG for defamation

July 20, 2022 0 By Ellen Novack

In response to this harassment and defamation, Bernard has not stayed quiet and instead is taking the key step to sue the attorney general for defamation.

“He [Rokita] is wrongly accusing her of misconduct in her profession, so we want that smear campaign to stop,” attorney Kathleen DeLaney said in an interview Tuesday with NPR. “We want him and his office to stop intimidating and harassing healthcare providers generally who are simply doing the job that they went to medical school to do.”

In a letter sent to Rokita and other Indiana state officials, Bernard’s attorney said she believes her client has suffered harm as a result of Rokita’s recent public statements.

”Statements that Dr. Bernard has a ‘history of failing to report,’ which Mr. Rokita indicated would constitute a crime, made in the absence of reasonable investigation, serve no legitimate law enforcement purpose. Given the current political atmosphere in the United States, Mr. Rokita’s comments were intended to heighten public condemnation of Dr. Bernard, who legally provided legitimate medical care,” the letter reads.

Rokita’s comments came after 27-year-old Gershon Fuentes was arrested and charged with one count of rape involving the 10-year-old victim. Fuentes allegedly confessed and turned himself in to authorities on July 6, Daily Kos reported. 

Rokita then called for an investigation into Bernard and, without evidence, claimed Bernard had a “history of failing to report” abortions as required under Indiana law during a July 13 interview on Fox News.

“We’re gathering the evidence as we speak, and we’re going to fight this to the end, including looking at her licensure,” Rokita said during the interview. “If she failed to report it in Indiana, it’s a crime for — to not report, to intentionally not report.”

He even issued a statement on his website saying his office was investigating whether Bernard reported the abortion to the departments of health and child services within the required three-day time window.

Of course, despite Indiana health officials and Indiana University Health, which Bernard works for, confirming that a review determined Bernard reported on time and did not violate any privacy laws, Rokita continued making false claims.

According to NPR, the tort claim notice, required by state law before Bernard could file a defamation suit against Rokita, says she intends to seek damages from the state for “security costs, legal fees, reputational harm, and emotional distress.” The amount is yet to be determined but state officials have 90 days to respond.

This isn’t the first letter Bernard’s attorney sent  Rokita. According to NPR, last week a “cease and desist” letter was sent to Rokita asking him to stop making what DeLaney described as defamatory statements. In response, Rokita’s spokeswoman Kelly Stevenson told NPR that: “Like any correspondence, it will be reviewed if and when it arrives. Regardless, no false or misleading statements have been made.”

According to the IndyStar, if the Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission agrees with the complainant and believes Rokita committed professional misconduct, he could face sanction, such as a suspension of his law license.

“As the highest-ranking lawyer in Indiana, Todd Rokita should be held to a high standard of legal conduct and ethical behavior, and both his comments and the continued presence of his baseless claims on his state-run website suggest that a disciplinary investigation is warranted,” DeLaney told The Washington Post.