Doctor defends actions in 10-year-old’s abortion

An Indianapolis doctor who provided abortion drugs to a 10-year-old rape victim from Ohio defended her actions before a judge Monday in an episode that drew national attention in the weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.

Dr. Caitlin Bernard testified during the second day of a court hearing on an attempt to block Indiana’s Republican attorney general from seeking patient medical records. The attorney general’s office says it is investigating whether Bernard properly reported child abuse and possibly violated patient privacy laws by telling a newspaper reporter about the girl’s case.

The Marion County judge said she expected to issue a decision next week on whether to issue a preliminary injunction against the attorney general’s office.

Bernard treated the girl in Indianapolis in late June, as the girl was unable to have an abortion in neighboring Ohio. That’s because Ohio’s “fetal heartbeat” law took effect with the Supreme Court’s decision. Such laws ban abortions from the time cardiac activity can be detected in an embryo, which is typically around the sixth week of pregnancy.

Bernard and her lawyers maintain the girl’s abuse had already been reported to Ohio police and child protective services officials before the doctor ever saw the child. Bernard said during her nearly 90 minutes of testimony that her lawsuit was aimed at protecting the girl’s privacy.

“There is no evidence of any crime being committed … so there should be no investigation necessary,” Bernard said.

Deputy Attorney General Caryn Nieman-Szyper argued that state law still required Indiana police and child welfare officials be notified immediately about the abuse so that they could assess the child’s safety even if an investigation had already started in Ohio.

After Bernard told The Indianapolis Star about the girl seeking an abortion, some news outlets and Republican politicians suggested her account was fabricated. President Joe Biden expressed empathy for the child while signing an executive order protecting some abortion access.

Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita told Fox News in July that he would look into whether Bernard violated child abuse notification or abortion reporting laws. Rokita has kept the investigation going even after a 27-year-old man was charged in Columbus, Ohio, with raping the girl, and public records show Bernard met Indiana’s required three-day reporting period for an abortion performed on a girl younger than 16.

Nieman-Szyper said Bernard wouldn’t be under investigation if she had not disclosed the girl’s rape to a reporter to advance her own advocacy of abortion rights. Nieman-Szyper said Bernard had not shown she had permission from the girl’s family to discuss her care in public, exposing the child to national attention.

Bernard said she had not yet seen the girl when she told the reporter about her as an example of the impact of tighter abortion laws going into effect across the country, but did not reveal identifying information about her.

“I did say that the patient had been raped,” Bernard said. “That is how a 10-year-old becomes pregnant.”

Bernard said she told an Indiana University Health social worker that the girl would be getting abortion treatment. She said those staffers were the ones who make sure that reports are made to the proper authorities.

Marion County Judge Heather Welch gave lawyers a Wednesday deadline for additional court filings.

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2 thoughts on “Doctor defends actions in 10-year-old’s abortion

  1. “In addition to any other duty to report arising under this article, an individual who has reason to believe that a child is a victim of child abuse or neglect shall make a report as required by this article.” I.C. 31-33-5-1. “This chapter does not relieve an individual of the obligation to report on the individual’s own behalf, unless a report has already been made to the best of the individual’s belief.” I.C. 31-33-5-3.

    A person who has a duty under this chapter to report that a child may be a victim of child abuse or neglect shall immediately make an oral or written report to:

    (1) the department [of Child Services]; or

    (2) the local law enforcement agency.

    I.C. 31-33-5-4.

    So, Dr. Bernard has a non-delegable, personal duty to report the child abuse immediately to DCS or local law enforcement immediately upon learning that the child was pregnant (because it was, by definition, rape). Dr. Bernard cannot “delegate” that duty to staffers. Dr. Bernard’s testimony proves she broke the law, plain and simple. Contrary to Dr. Bernard’s self-serving testimony, this is evidence of a crime being committed, because it is a crime not to report the abuse immediately.

    [At best, Dr. Bernard is misunderstanding I.C. 31-33-5-2.5, which requires another report to the head of the facility or THEIR designated staff person; however, that is a separate reporting obligation, independent of her personal duty to immediately report to DCS or law enforcement. And, each of these reports is separate and independent from the duty to timely file the TPR.]

    1. She met the reporting requirements, and by the way, that’s not what Rokita is now after. Let’s quote the article:

      “ public records show Bernard met Indiana’s required three-day reporting period for an abortion performed on a girl younger than 16.”

      “Nieman-Szyper said Bernard wouldn’t be under investigation if she had not disclosed the girl’s rape to a reporter to advance her own advocacy of abortion rights. “

      This doctor is under investigation for making Todd Rokita look like a schmuck, making an abortion doctor look like a sympathetic figure, and him yet again wasting taxpayer dollars shooting his mouth off without the facts trying to make himself into a gubernatorial candidate. He’s found the person, now he’s looking for a crime, and he’s going to keep spending my and your money until he finds one … because he’s too small of a man to admit he was wrong.

      I’ll also point out the irony that Rokita went public without even bothering to do any of his own fact checking first. So it’s OK for him to spread misinformation because he’s against abortion to further his political career, but it’s not OK for the doctor to disclose that she had to give an abortion to a raped 10 year old.

      And if that’s all OK because abusing government power like this is OK because it’s against an abortion doctor, well, we are going to have to disagree.

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