An Indiana board of medical examiners will hear testimony Thursday on whether an Indianapolis doctor should face disciplinary action after openly discussing performing an abortion to a 10-year-old rape victim from neighboring Ohio.
The hearing comes after Indiana’s Republican attorney general accused Dr. Caitlin Bernard of breaking state law by failing to disclose the girl’s child abuse to Indiana authorities. She’s also accused of violating federal patient privacy regulations by discussing the girl’s treatment with a newspaper reporter.
Bernard and her lawyers argue that the doctor complied with Indiana’s child abuse reporting obligations because the girl’s rape was already being probed by Ohio authorities. Bernard’s attorneys also claim she did not reveal any identifying information on the girl, which would violate privacy rules.
The Indianapolis Star referenced the girl’s story in a July 1 piece that generated a nationwide political uproar in the weeks following the US Supreme Court’s decision last June to overturn Roe v. Wade, putting into effect an Ohio statute that restricted abortions beyond six weeks of pregnancy. Until a 27-year-old man was accused with rape in Columbus, Ohio, several news sources and Republican leaders incorrectly claimed Bernard concocted the story.
The complaint filed by Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita asks the licensing board to impose “appropriate disciplinary action,” but does not specify a penalty.
The Indiana board, comprised of six doctors and one attorney appointed by Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb, might vote on imposing fines Thursday after hearing several hours of testimony. State law gives the board broad authority, allowing it to issue reprimand letters or suspend, revoke, or place a doctor’s license on probation.
Rokita, who is staunchly anti-abortion, told Fox News that he would examine Bernard’s behavior, labeling her an “abortion activist masquerading as a doctor.”
“This case is about two things – and two things only – patient privacy and this doctor’s failure to protect this child,” he said in a statement.
Ohio’s near-ban on abortion was in force for approximately two months before being put on hold while a lawsuit against it is being resolved.
Bernard unsuccessfully attempted to halt Rokita’s inquiry last October, but an Indianapolis court ruled that Rokita’s public comments about investigating the doctor before filing the medical licensing complaint against her were “clearly unlawful breaches” of state confidentiality regulations.
Kathleen DeLaney, Bernard’s lawyer, has dubbed the complaint “baseless attacks” carried out at taxpayer cost.
“Rokita’s actions set a dangerous precedent imperiling the provision of lawful patient care,” DeLaney stated.
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