Doctor’s lawyer defends steps in 10-year-old girl’s abortion

  • Comments
  • Print

The lawyer for an Indiana doctor at the center of a political firestorm after speaking out about a 10-year-old child abuse victim who traveled from Ohio for an abortion said Thursday that her client provided proper treatment and did not violate any patient privacy laws in discussing the unidentified girl’s case.

Attorney Kathleen DeLaney issued the statement on behalf of Indianapolis obstetrician-gynecologist Caitlin Bernard the same day Republican Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita said his office was investigating Bernard’s actions. He offered no specific allegations of wrongdoing.

A 27-year-old man was charged in Columbus, Ohio, on Wednesday with raping the girl, confirming the existence of a case initially met with skepticism by some media outlets and Republican politicians. The pushback grew after Democratic President Joe Biden expressed empathy for the girl during the signing of an executive order last week aimed at protecting some abortion access in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling overturning the constitutional protection for abortion.

Bernard’s attorney said the physician “took every appropriate and proper action in accordance with the law and both her medical and ethical training as a physician.”

“She followed all relevant policies, procedures, and regulations in this case, just as she does every day to provide the best possible care for her patients,” DeLaney said in a statement. “She has not violated any law, including patient privacy laws, and she has not been disciplined by her employer.”

Bernard reported a June 30 medication abortion for a 10-year-old patient to the state health department on July 2, within the three-day requirement set in state law for a girl younger than 16, according to a report obtained by The Indianapolis Star and WXIN-TV of Indianapolis under public records requests. The report indicated the girl seeking the abortion had been abused.

DeLaney said they are considering taking legal action against “those who have smeared my client,” including Rokita, who had said he would investigate whether Bernard violated child abuse notification or abortion reporting laws. He also said his office would look into whether anything Bernard said to the Star about the case violated federal medical privacy laws. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services would not say whether any privacy law complaints had been filed against Bernard, nor would Indiana University Health, where Bernard is an obstetrician. But the HIPAA Privacy Rule only protects most “individually identifiable health information,” the department’s website said.

The prosecutor for Indianapolis, where the abortion took place, said his office alone has the authority to pursue any criminal charges in such situations and that Bernard was being “subjected to intimidation and bullying.”

“I think it’s really dangerous when people in law enforcement start trying to launch a criminal investigation based on rumors on the internet,” Democratic Marion County Prosecutor Ryan Mears said.

Some Republicans who have backed stringent abortion restrictions imposed in Ohio after the Supreme Court ruling, including Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost, initially questioned whether the story relayed by Bernard to the newspaper was real. After telling Fox News on Monday that there was not “a whisper” of evidence supporting the case’s existence, Yost said his “heart aches for the pain suffered by this young child” and his investigative unit stands ready to support police in the case.

On Thursday, Yost faced intense backlash for his public statements, including a claim that medical exceptions in the Ohio “fetal heartbeat” abortion ban would have allowed the girl to receive her abortion in the state.

Apparently in response, he released a “legal explainer” detailing the law’s medical exceptions. Abortion rights advocates and attorneys said the law’s medical exceptions–for the life of the mother, dire risks of bodily harm and ectopic pregnancies–would not have protected an Ohio doctor who performed an abortion for the girl from prosecution.

Bernard did not reply to email and text messages from The Associated Press seeking comment.

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.

14 thoughts on “Doctor’s lawyer defends steps in 10-year-old girl’s abortion

  1. They’re attacking a 10-year old. A rape-survivor TEN YEAR OLD.

    Rokita (and everyone who smeared this case on Fox News) is going to that special hell.

    1. The rapist is an illegal immigrant from Central America.

      Apparently the mother of the 10 year-old was ok with the rapist according to interviews.

      So a ten year old had sex with a 27 year old with the mother’s blessing.

  2. Caitlin Bernard should sue Todd Rokita for a whole, whole lot of money and I hope she wins. Rokita is either using his position to grandstand to sucker Hoosier voters into voting for him or he’s so incompetent he should be disbarred.

    Either outcome is unacceptable for an elected official. Rokita should be impeached.

    Also, apparently for all his legal smarts, apparently Jim Bopp didn’t pay attention to how things played out for Richard Mourdock.

    1. Bernard admitted she killed the 6 week gestation, so not sure how she is on the moral high ground in any of this.

      The mother of the 10 year old sounds like a real piece of work too, apparently condoning the 27 year old illegal immigrant having sex with her daughter.

    2. That Todd Rokita made an abortion doctor look good should give pause to Rokita’s supporters.

  3. Not that Caitlin Bernard isn’t using the situation to grandstand, right, Joe and Charles?

    She said it was necessary “to save the girl’s life.” If that is true (and I’m not saying it wasn’t), then the abortion could have been performed in Ohio, in that Ohio’s law has provision for those circumstances. In that case, there would have been no need for her to come to Indiana…other than her “handlers” wanted it that way to make the National Stage.

    But that wouldn’t have garnered the National Media’s pro-abortion furor so desperately sought by the evilest of pro-aborts among us, attention they so desperately crave after Roe vs. Wade was overturned on legal grounds.

    If you’re going to accuse Todd Rokita of taking advantage of the situation, look in the mirror for an equal example.

    1. Excellent points. This seems like an example where an abortion may have indeed been necessary, since most 10 year olds are not large enough to carry a child to term through their not fully developed birth canal. While it’s possible that a C-section could have been achievable (and would have almost certainly been less invasive to the body), it’s not reasonable to expect a 10-year-old rape victim (even if the mother was complete scumbag trash herself) to carry a child to term. Of course, it’s also unusual that a 10-year-old is ovulating, but less unusual in 2022 than it was a century ago.

      Most likely the child’s mother AND the illegal immigrant rapist should be doing hard prison time.

    2. Bob, the Ohio law does not provide the carve out you claim it does per their own Legislative Services agency. Their AG lost his credibility when he claimed the whole thing was a scam.

      But the law is functioning as intended. The ambiguity is a feature, not a bug, to scare people away. We shall see if Indiana repeats the same mistakes.

      The solution is simple – rape and incest provisions. But as we have found out, some want to use being raped as a teaching moment.

  4. The whole abortion issue is a matter that should be kept between the patient and their physician. It is no one else’s business.

    Rokita should be disbarred. He is grandstanding by publicizing the tragedy of a 10-YEAR OLDs abuse, rape and pregnancy. The only part he should be focusing on is the criminal who raped her and her mother who allowed it. Disgraceful!

    1. Rokita is almost certainly a sleazebag, but what about the Ohio politicians on both sides of the aisle who sought to obfuscate the matter? Applying that same logic, Caitlin Bernard should have her medical license revoked. She is obviously a political activist first and a physician second.

    2. DH and Lauren B.

      I lump them all in the same boat for all the public attention they have brought on this poor child. We are all passionate about the subject, but putting the spotlight on a child is unacceptable.

  5. An ethics complaint should be filed with the Indiana Supreme Court against Attorney General Todd Rokita for his uninformed unprofessional grandstanding besmirching Indiana’s Office of Attorney General.