Lawyers depose Indiana doctor who spoke out about a 10-year-old’s abortion while she faces the panel
An Indianapolis doctor who spoke publicly about aborting a 10-year-old rape victim risks disciplinary action because state attorneys mauled her during a hearing on Thursday, which could change her future as a doctor.
The doctor, Caitlin Bernard, has been accused by Indiana Republican Attorney General Todd Rokita of failing to report the child abuse to state authorities.
“No doctor has been so bold in pursuing his own agenda,” prosecutors told the board of directors about Bernard.
Bernard is also accused of violating 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, telling the state’s Medical Licensing Board — the panel that will ultimately decide her fate — that she was complying with Indiana’s reporting requirements by notifying social workers at the hospital about the child abuse.
The board heard arguments from both sides about whether Bernard should be punished, including having her license revoked, but took no action.
Dr. Caitlin Bernard has been accused by Indiana Republican Attorney General Todd Rokita of failing to report the child abuse to state authorities
Bernard spoke publicly about an abortion case involving a 10-year-old rape victim
Rokita filed a report against Bernard last summer after she went to the press about the case and was before the disciplinary board on Thursday
Bernard told the panel that Ohio was already investigating the rape of the child and that privacy laws were not violated because she did not release any identifying information.
Indiana Deputy Attorney General Cory Voight said “there hasn’t been a case like this before the board of directors.”
“No doctor has been so bold in pursuing his own agenda.”
Voight argued that the panel should do something about what he labeled a “blatant violation” of patient privacy, in addition to her alleged failure to notify the Department of Child Services and Indiana law enforcement of the rape.
Bernard’s lawyer, Alice Morical, told the board that her client has reported cases of patient abuse many times a year.
Voight asked Bernard why she told a reporter about the Ohio girl’s case, then discussed the case further in other media interviews.
“I think it’s incredibly important for people to understand the real impact of this country’s laws on abortion,” Bernard replied.
“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.”
The Indianapolis Star’s story about the girl’s case sparked a national political outcry last summer in the weeks following the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, which then enacted a law in Ohio banning abortions after six weeks of pregnancy.
As a result of the article, some news outlets and GOP politicians falsely suggested that Bernard fabricated the story, until a 27-year-old man was charged with the rape in Columbus, Ohio.
Dr. Tracey Wilkinson, left, a pediatric physician at the IU School of Medicine, and Dr. Caroline E. Rouse, a maternal fetal medicine physician at the IU School of Medicine, line up outside a conference room to meet 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 of the girl’s case caused 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 authority to impose “appropriate disciplinary action,” but does not seek a specific penalty.
The board took no action during the hearing.
Last summer, amid the exploding wave of attention the case received, Rokita, who is pro-life, called Bernard an “abortion activist.”
Bernard countered Rokita’s string of accusations, saying, “I think if the Attorney General, Todd Rokita, hadn’t chosen to make this his political stunt, we wouldn’t be here today.”
The Indiana board, before which this case is being tried, consists of six doctors and an attorney named GOP Governor Eric Holcomb.
The panel will vote on whether to impose penalties after several hours of testimony. Indiana state law gives the board of directors the power to issue a reprimand, or suspend, revoke, or probation a physician’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 violations of state secrecy laws with his public remarks about examining the medical professional.”