Indiana doctor collapses at hearing as she is punished for speaking about 10-year-old’s abortion
An Indiana doctor has been fined $3,000 after performing an abortion on a 10-year-old Ohio girl who was raped and couldn’t have the procedure in her home state, thanks to the withdrawal of Roe v. Wade.
Dr. Caitlin Bernard was fined not for the proceedings themselves, but for talking about it publicly — with the state’s deputy attorney general accusing her of being “brazen in pursuing (her) own agenda.”
The case became a focal point after the June 24, 2022 Supreme Court decision to revoke the 50-year-old law.
Ohio’s near-total ban on abortion went into effect immediately: It banned all abortions after the sixth week of pregnancy, before most people know they are pregnant.
Abortion is legal in Indiana up to 21 weeks and six days. An Indiana law that completely banned abortion in Indiana went into effect Sept. 15, but is being challenged in court and is currently not in effect.
Bernard broke down in tears Thursday when she was told she would not lose her medical license — something the Republican attorney general had been pushing for.
Dr. Caitlin Bernard was fined $3,000 on Thursday for performing the abortion on 10-year-old Ohio rape victim, then publicly talking about it
But the state’s Medical Licensing Board voted she was in breach of privacy laws by telling a newspaper reporter about the girl’s treatment.
However, the board rejected allegations from Indiana’s Republican Attorney General that Bernard had violated state law by not reporting the child abuse to Indiana authorities.
Board members chose to fine Bernard $3,000 for the violations, denying a request from the Attorney General’s office to suspend Bernard’s license.
Bernard has consistently defended her actionsand on Thursday she told the board she followed Indiana’s reporting requirements and hospital policy by notifying hospital social workers of the child abuse — and that the girl’s rape was already under investigation by Ohio authorities.
Bernard’s lawyers also said she has not released any identifying information about the girl that would violate privacy laws.
The Indianapolis Star cited the girl’s case in a July 1 article that sparked a national political upheaval in the weeks after the US Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last summer.
Some news outlets and Republican politicians falsely suggested that Bernard fabricated the story, until a 27-year-old man was accused of the rape in Columbus, Ohio.
At an event at the White House, President Joe Biden almost shouted his indignation above the case.
Bernard, left, sits Thursday between attorneys John Hoover and Alice Morical for a hearing before the state medical board in Indianapolis
Chairman of the Board Dr. John Strobel said he felt Bernard was going too far in telling a reporter about the girl’s impending abortion, and that doctors should be careful about respecting patient privacy.
“I don’t think she expected this to go viral,” Strobel said of Bernard.
“I don’t think she expected this patient to get so much attention. It did. It happened.’
Bernard’s lawyer, Alice Morical, told the board on Thursday that the doctor reported child abuse of patients many times a year and that a hospital social worker had confirmed with Ohio child protection officers that it was safe for the girl to be with her mother to leave.
‘Dr. Bernard could not have foreseen the atypical and intense attention this story received,” said Morical.
“She didn’t expect politicians to say she made up the story.”
Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita’s complaint requested that the licensing authority impose “appropriate disciplinary action,” but did not specify a penalty sought.
Amid the wave of attention for the girl’s case last summer, Rokita, who is outspokenly anti-abortion, told Fox News he would investigate Bernard’s actions, calling her an “abortion activist acting like a doctor.”
Deputy Attorney General Cory Voight argued Thursday that the board should do something about what he called a “flagrant violation” of patient privacy and Bernard’s failure to notify the Department of Child Services and the Indiana Police Department of the rape.
“There hasn’t been a case like this before the council,” Voight said.
“No doctor has been so bold in pursuing his own agenda.”
Voight asked Bernard why she discussed the Ohio girl’s case with the newspaper reporter and later in other news media interviews instead of using a hypothetical situation.
“I think it’s incredibly important for people to understand the real impact of this country’s laws on abortion,” Bernard said.
“I think it’s important that people know what patients will have to go through because of legislation that is passed, and a hypothetical one doesn’t care.”
During Thursday’s hearing, Rokita’s office made running commentary on its official Twitter account, with one post stating, “When Bernard spoke of the high priority she gives to legislation and speaking to the public, she did so at the expense of her own patient. .
“This shows where her priorities lie as an activist rather than a doctor.”
Bernard objected to Voight, saying her choice to discuss the matter publicly led to the misconduct allegations.
“I think if the Attorney General, Todd Rokita, hadn’t chosen to make this his political stunt, we wouldn’t be here today,” Bernard said.
Lawyers from the attorney general’s office repeatedly questioned whether the policy of Bernard’s employer, Indiana University Health, to report suspected child abuse to authorities in the state where the abuse occurred was consistent with Indiana law.
Officials from IU Health, the state’s largest hospital system, stated that the Indiana Department of Child Services has never previously objected to the hospital policy.
The Indiana board—with five doctors present and a lawyer who had been appointed or reappointed by Republican Governor Eric Holcomb—had wide leeway under state law that allowed it to issue a reprimand or suspend, revoke, or put on probation a doctor’s license.
The Ohio law, which imposed a near-ban on abortion, was in effect for about two months before being suspended as a lawsuit against it plays out.
from Indiana The Republican-dominated legislature passed a statewide ban on abortion weeks after the Ohio girl’s case drew attention, but abortions are still allowed in the state pending an Indiana Supreme Court decision decision on the constitutionality of the ban.
Bernard unsuccessfully tried to block Rokita’s investigation last fall, even though an Indianapolis judge wrote that Rokita had done it ‘clearly unlawful infringements’ of state secrecy laws with his public remarks about researching the doctor before filing the medical licensing complaint against her.