Abortion doctor files lawsuit against Indiana AG Rokita to stop ‘sham investigations’

Caitlin Bernard, the OB-GYN targeted by Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita after she publicly stated in July she had performed an abortion on a 10-year-old rape victim from Ohio, has filed a lawsuit seeking to block the attorney general’s “baseless investigation” into physicians who provide abortion care.

The complaint, filed Thursday, is asking Marion Superior Court to declare Rokita and Scott Barnhart, chief counsel and director of the  Indiana Attorney General Office’s Consumer Protection Division, have violated state statute, exceeded their authority and breached the confidentiality provisions regarding consumer complaints.

Also, asserting the plaintiffs, their patients and other licensed professionals will suffer irreparable harm unless Rokita and Barnhart are stopped, the complaint asks the court to permanently enjoin the defendants from future violations.

“Unless this Court intervenes, Defendants will continue to unlawfully harass physicians and patients who are engaged in completely legal conduct and even though neither the physicians nor patients have any complaints about their relationship,” the complaint states.

The lawsuit also contends that without court action, the attorney general could conduct similar investigations on other professionals.

“Defendants’ current targets are physicians who provide medical care, including abortion services permitted under Indiana law,” the complaint states. “But there is no reason to believe Defendants will stop there. All licensed professionals face the exact same dangers as Plaintiffs.”

Bernard is joined in the lawsuit by her medical partner, Dr. Amy Caldwell, and their patients. The plaintiffs are represented by Kathleen DeLaney of DeLaney & DeLaney LLC, and pro bono counsel Arnold & Porter.

In response to the lawsuit, Rokita’s office defended the handling of the complaints against Bernard.

“By statutory obligation, we investigate thousands of potential licensing, privacy, and other violations a year,” Kelly Stevenson, spokesperson for the attorney general, said in a statement. “A majority of the complaints we receive are, in fact, from nonpatients. Any investigations that arise as a result of potential violations are handled in a uniform manner and narrowly focused. We will discuss this particular matter further through the judicial filings we make.”

The Bernard matter has ignited a firestorm.

DeLaney sent a “cease and desist” letter to Rokita in July.

In addition, former Indiana University Maurer School of Law dean Lauren Robel called for a disciplinary investigation against Rokita while 29 Indiana law school professors criticized his conduct. Plus,  former Congresswoman Susan Brooks and former 7th Circuit Judge John Tinder publicly denounced Rokita’s actions.

The lawsuit accuses the attorney general and the consumer protection division director of moving forward with an investigation into Bernard based on “facially invalid” consumer complaints.

After the media reported on the 10-year-old’s abortion, seven consumer complaints against Bernard were filed over four days in July, according to the lawsuit.

According to the suit, the complaints were without merit because they were submitted by individuals who did not engage or have any personal interaction with Bernard or Caldwell. Instead, the complainants cited news stories and made claims without offering explanations or details supporting their allegations.  Also, the complaints did not include a valid affirmation.

The lawsuit states that rather than determining whether any of the complaints had merit, and in spite of Bernard complying with the law by filing a Termination of Pregnancy Report, the attorney general and director notified Bernard an investigation had been opened into her conduct.

Next, the attorney general and the director issued “sweepingly broad document subpoenas” for the “entire medical file” of the rape victim, according to the lawsuit.

“The Attorney General and Director ignored their responsibilities to find (the consumer complaints) had merit before opening investigations into them,” the lawsuit states. “Instead, the Attorney General and Director opened multiple investigations into Bernard despite the obvious deficiencies in all the consumer complaints and the fact that publicly available information indicated that the complaints were frivolous.”

Also, the lawsuit asserts, the attorney general and director opened a “similarly meritless and overboard investigation into Dr. Caldwell.” The lawsuit states the defendant converted a complaint that was filed against “an institution” into a complaint against Caldwell.

The attorney general through the director served Caldwell and a “local health care clinic” with similar document subpoenas seeking all medical records relating to Bernard’s patient identified in the TPR.

Moreover, the lawsuit asserts, the attorney general and director “brazenly disregarded” state law the requires consumer complaints be kept confidential until the licensure board is notified of the attorney general intent to prosecute. Rokita spread the “groundless allegations” by giving multiple interviews to the media, making public a letter he sent to Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb and issuing an “inflammatory press release.”

“The Attorney General’s and Director’s improper conduct dissuades patients who need emergency abortions from seeking care,” the lawsuit asserts. “It also threatens patients seeking legal abortions that their most personal and private medical records and health care decisions could be exposed as part of a meritless investigation.

“The Attorney General and the Director will continue to initiate sham investigations of Plaintiffs unless enjoined by the Court,” the lawsuit concludes.

Please enable JavaScript to view this content.

Story Continues Below

Editor's note: You can comment on IBJ stories by signing in to your IBJ account. If you have not registered, please sign up for a free account now. Please note our updated comment policy that will govern how comments are moderated.

15 thoughts on “Abortion doctor files lawsuit against Indiana AG Rokita to stop ‘sham investigations’

    1. This is not a matter of “the lesser of two evils.” Todd and Diego are equals in terms of their personal ethics and integrity.

    1. Can you imagine if he spent as much time helping the people of Indiana as he does on setting up his future political campaigns?

    1. Easy, DH; because too many people in our culture are too stupid and short-sighted to realize that a culture cannot be expected to long survive the wholesale, intentional slaughter of entire generations of people.

    2. Because abortion will always be medically necessary sometimes. Especially late term abortions, the vast majority of which are unfortunately needed to be done on women who very much wanted to have a baby and are now having to get an abortion for medical reasons.

      I mean, if what you’re saying is that you’d rather women die or be sentenced to never being able to have children because they have an ectopic pregnancy, just be clear about it. And make sure you remind us how pro-life you are, too.

    3. Joe, ectopic pregnancies have nothing to do with abortion, stop spreading distribution.

      There is never a medical indication for late term abortion or infanticide.

  1. This is not a sham investigation. Why was a 10 year old who lives in Ohio, brought to Indiana for an abortion? And since she’s a minor child, was this rape reported in the state of Ohio? This was a crime committed by an adult perp. I think there are many questions here that need to be answered, so the investigation is warranted.

    1. Gloria, this investigation is not about the act of rape in Ohio (Rokita has no legal jurisdiction there). Allegedly it is about the physician who performed the legal abortion in Indiana and who, by all public evidence, complied with all state and local laws. Knowing this should make you wonder what Rokita’s motive is to pursue any investigation at all.

    2. Brent B, you did not answer any of my questions. Why did this child’s mother bring her to INDIANA for an abortion? The state of Ohio has legal abortions up to the 26th week. And was this rape reported, since this child was only 10 YEARS OLD? It looks to me like the mother wanted to keep this on the down-low, and leaving the state of Ohio was a better plan to keep everything anonymous. Aren’t you the least bit curious about any of this?

    3. Ohio has a heartbeat law with no exceptions for rape and incest. They passed it after Roe was overturned. The Ohio Legislative Services Agency confirmed that, while the law does have a provision for the health of the mother, there’s nothing in the law that says a 10 year being pregnant meets that threshold. (If Ohio legislators wanted a rape and incest exclusion, they should have put it in the law.)

      The rape was reported both in Ohio (where the rapist was arrested) and in Indiana by Dr. Bernard, as required by Indiana state law. The mother was, indeed, an interesting individual … which is inconsequential to the matter at hand.

      Gloria, aren’t you the least bit curious as to how you can be so uninformed about something that got so much press? Doesn’t that make you curious about what else you might be totally wrong about?

  2. AG is shameful and disgusting. But that’s old new. But is he criminal? Being dastardly is nasty and unbecoming of the office. But misusing the AG office for personal vendettas should be investigated.

{{ articles_remaining }}
Free {{ article_text }} Remaining
{{ articles_remaining }}
Free {{ article_text }} Remaining Article limit resets on
{{ count_down }}