Indiana Doc Who Provided Abortion for Child Rape Victim Took Proper Action: Lawyer

Indiana Doc Who Provided Abortion for Child Rape Victim Took Proper Action: Lawyer

July 15, 2022 0 By Jennifer Walker

In the wake of the Supreme Court’s overturn of Roe v. Wade and Ohio’s enactment of its 6-week “heartbeat” abortion ban, an Indiana physician has found herself in the middle of significant media and political attention for performing an abortion for a 10-year-old Ohio girl who was raped and impregnated by a 27-year-old man.

Now, a lawyer for obstetrician-gynecologist Caitlin Bernard, MD, MS, is pushing back on statements that she should be subject to an investigation for doing her job.

“My client, Dr. Caitlin Bernard, took every appropriate and proper action in accordance with the law and both her medical and ethical training as a physician,” Indianapolis attorney Kathleen DeLaney, JD, said in an emailed statement. “She followed all relevant policies, procedures, and regulations in this case, just as she does every day to provide the best possible care for her patients. She has not violated any law, including patient privacy laws, and she has not been disciplined by her employer.”

“We are considering legal action against those who have smeared my client, including Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita, and know that the facts will all come out in due time,” DeLaney added.

On July 14, Indiana’s Republican Attorney General Todd Rokita issued a statement that there would be an investigation of Bernard’s provision of care to the 10-year-old girl.

Rokita said in that initial statement, “[W]e are investigating this situation and are waiting for the relevant documents to prove if the abortion and/or the abuse were reported, as Dr. Caitlin Bernard had requirements to do both under Indiana law.”

“The failure to do so constitutes a crime in Indiana, and her behavior could also affect her licensure,” Rokita further stated. “Additionally, if a HIPAA violation did occur, that may affect next steps as well. I will not relent in the pursuit of the truth.”

The investigation comes as abortion is still legal in Indiana, though that may soon change.

Indiana law does specify that, if an abortion is provided for a patient who is less than 16 years of age, the healthcare provider must report it to both the state department of health and state department of child services within 3 days, according to the Attorney General’s office.

However, Bernard did disclose the abortion provided for her 10-year-old patient to both departments, the Indianapolis Star reported, citing a public records request.

In response to the statement issued by DeLaney, Rokita said the following to MedPage Today in an email: “As we stated, we are gathering evidence from multiple sources and agencies related to these allegations. Our legal review of it remains open.”

The Indianapolis Star reported at the beginning of the month that Bernard had provided care for a 10-year-old abuse victim who was 6 weeks and 3 days pregnant.

DeLaney noted that her statement on behalf of Bernard comes as the physician has since come under attack by various media outlets and public figures.

Beyond the Indiana case, legal experts recently told MedPage Today that physicians’ concerns over ever-changing and exceedingly strict state laws have the potential to chill the provision of reproductive care, threatening access to care and lives.

Bernard did not immediately respond to MedPage Today’s request for comment.

However, she recently addressed the issue via her Twitter account, writing the following: “My heart breaks for all survivors of sexual assault and abuse. I am so sad that our country is failing them when they need us most. Doctors must be able to give people the medical care they need, when and where they need it.”

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    Jennifer Henderson joined MedPage Today as an enterprise and investigative writer in Jan. 2021. She has covered the healthcare industry in NYC, life sciences and the business of law, among other areas.