Indiana board reprimands, fines doctor for speaking publicly about abortion for 10-year-old rape victim
Washington — Indiana’s medical licensing board on Thursday issued a letter of reprimand and levied a fine against the obstetrician-gynecologist who provided an abortion to a 10-year-old rape victim from Ohio. The board concluded that Dr. Caitlin Bernard violated patient privacy laws when she discussed the procedure with a reporter.
The decision followed a lengthy meeting of the Indiana Medical Licensing Board, which ultimately found Bernard violated state privacy laws when she discussed the 10-year-old’s case with a reporter for the Indianapolis Star. The board declined to suspend Bernard’s license, but issued a $3,000 fine — $1,000 for each of the three counts she was found liable for — and the letter of reprimand.
The meeting, which stemmed from a complaint Attorney General Todd Rokita filed against the doctor in November, featured testimony from several witnesses, including Bernard herself.
Bernard told the board that she was not pushing a narrative about abortion when she spoke publicly, but instead believed it was important for Indiana residents to know that abortion could be banned in the state with no exceptions after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, forcing patients seeking abortion care to travel out of state.
“Abortion is not a political issue,” she said. “Abortion is part of comprehensive health care and needs to stay squarely in the realm of public health.”
Bernard said she did not believe she would be facing the licensing board if the attorney general “had not chosen to make this his political stunt.”
In response to the board’s decision, Rokita thanked the members for their “extraordinary time and consideration,” and said the case concerned privacy and trust.
“Like we have said for a year, this case was about patient privacy and the trust between the doctor and patient that was broken,” he said in a statement. “What if it was your child or your patient or your sibling who was going through a sensitive medical crisis, and the doctor, who you thought was on your side, ran to the press for political reasons? It’s not right, and the facts we presented today made that clear.”
Bernard made headlines last year after she told the Indianapolis Star that she was contacted by a child abuse doctor in Ohio about a pregnant 10-year-old who was seeking an abortion outside of Ohio due to the state’s abortion law, which bans the procedure once embryonic cardiac activity is detected, typically around six weeks of pregnancy.
Bernard said in an interview with “CBS Evening News” that she couldn’t confirm she provided the abortion, but state records confirmed she provided a medication-induced abortion to the 10-year-old on June 30, just days after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.
Following the revelation, Rokita sought to punish Bernard, alleging she violated reporting and patient privacy laws.
Separately, Bernard filed a lawsuit against Rokita last year, alleging he has relied on “baseless” consumer complaints to launch “overbroad” investigations into physicians who provide abortion care, and issued subpoenas seeking the confidential medical records of their patients.
The suit claims Rokita opened investigations into seven consumer complaints filed against Bernard after she came under scrutiny for performing the abortion and issued subpoenas, which the doctor’s lawyers says served no legitimate investigative purpose.”