Penalty sought for doctor who spoke of 10-year-old’s abortion

Indiana’s attorney general on Wednesday asked the state medical licensing board to discipline an Indianapolis doctor who has spoken publicly about providing an abortion to a 10-year-old rape victim who traveled from Ohio after its more-restrictive abortion law took effect.

The complaint alleges Dr. Caitlin Bernard violated state law by not reporting the girl’s child abuse to Indiana authorities and violated patient privacy laws by telling a newspaper reporter about the girl’s treatment.

That account sparked a national political uproar in the weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June, with some news outlets and Republican politicians falsely suggesting Bernard fabricated the story and President Joe Biden nearly shouting his outrage over the case during a White House event.

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. A 27-year-old man has been charged in Columbus, Ohio, with raping the girl.

Bernard’s lawyers argue Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita, a Republican who is stridently anti-abortion, has been spreading false or misleading information about the doctor with his investigation allegations for several months.

The attorney general’s complaint asked the licensing board to impose “appropriate disciplinary action” but doesn’t specify a requested penalty. State licensing boards ensure physicians have the appropriate training and education to practice in the state and can suspend, revoke or place on probation a doctor’s license.

“Dr. Bernard violated the law, her patient’s trust, and the standards for the medical profession when she disclosed her patient’s abuse, medical issues, and medical treatment to a reporter at an abortion rights rally to further her political agenda,” the office said in a statement. “Simply concealing the patient’s name falls far short of her legal and ethical duties here.”

The attorney general’s office filed the action as an Indianapolis judge considers whether to block the attorney general’s office from trying to obtain patient medical records for its investigation. The judge’s ruling is expected later this week.

Kathleen DeLaney, a lawyer for Bernard, pointed to testimony from that investigation, including from Bernard, who on Nov. 21 testified that both child abuse authorities and law enforcement in Ohio were involved in the case before the child came to Indiana for treatment.

Marion County Deputy Prosecutor Katharine Melnick also testified that day and said child abuse would be reported by hospital social workers, not doctors, and such reports would be referred to law enforcement where the crime occurred.

“Though I am disappointed he has put my client in this position, we are not surprised given Mr. Rokita’s consistent efforts to use his office to seek to punish those with whom he disagrees at the expense of Indiana taxpayers,” DeLaney said in a statement Wednesday.

Bernard treated the girl in Indianapolis in late June, as she said doctors determined 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 June 24 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, before many realize they are pregnant.

Deputy Attorney General Caryn Nieman-Szyper said during a court hearing last week that 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 testified that she spoke with an Indianapolis Star reporter about the girl’s impending abortion at an event protesting the Supreme Court’s abortion decision.

After the newspaper cited that case in a July 1 article about patients heading to Indiana for abortions because of more restrictive laws elsewhere, Rokita told Fox News that he would investigate Bernard’s actions, calling her an “abortion activist acting as a doctor.”

Rokita has kept the investigation going even after rape charges were filed in Ohio and public records obtained by The Associated Press show Bernard met Indiana’s required three-day reporting period for an abortion performed on a girl younger than 16.

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38 thoughts on “Penalty sought for doctor who spoke of 10-year-old’s abortion

    1. Todd Rokita being a self-righteous, grandstanding, sanctimonious oaf doesn’t exculpate Dr. Bernard. Most of us already knew that. But she played fast and loose with disclosure laws to serve her own activist agenda, primarily enabling a state-line issue for a procedure that was never legally forbidden even with Ohio’s new hyper-strict “fetal heartbeat” abortion laws. The doctors who “determined the girl was unable to have an abortion in Ohio” failed to recognize rape/incest supersedes the gestational statute of limitations. They deliberately waited and made it an interstate issue so they could get national attention. And failed to make any effort to prosecute the illegal alien who raped this little girl, apparently (most creepily of all) under her own mother’s cognizance, who is also pregnant by the same illegal alien. The child is just a pawn–a useful tool for Dr. Bernard and the corrupt Ohio physicians to make a political point. Otherwise they would have shown more concern about the actions of the girl’s mother and the man who impregnated her.

      And yes, I DO believe the 10-year-old should have had access to an abortion.

      Caitlin Bernard being treated like a persecuted saint by the legacy media only shows the legacy media’s inability to be nonpartisan. But, yet again, most of us already know that.

    2. Lauren, Ohio Statutory Definition of Illegal Abortion: “Knowingly performing or inducing an abortion once a fetal heartbeat has been detected, unless designed or intended to prevent the death of the pregnant woman or to prevent a serious risk of the substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function of the pregnant woman”

    3. Lauren.

      The Ohio legislative services agency gave their opinion that there is no such provision in Ohio’s abortion law and that the abortion was not legal in Ohio. If they wanted rape and incest provisions, they should have put them in the law. Ambiguity in the law is the entire point of it – they want to scare doctors away from giving even abortions that we agree should be legally allowed.

      And that’s what Todd Rokita is after here. Even if you follow all the laws (as this doctor did), Rokita wants to insert himself into the process. He wants to be The Decider so he can issue another press release about how great he is as part of it. He wants to make it hard as possible to give abortions. If women die as part of the process? Well, that’s just God’s will. Besides, it’s just a woman.

      That’s this doctor’s true crime, she made Rokita look like a schmuck. Even Rokita’s spokesman admitted that they would not have prosecuted the doctor for giving the abortion, they’re prosecuting her for talking about giving an abortion. Rokita must be inspired by Stalin – he’s found the person, now he will find the crime.

    4. Lauren, I think you have zero evidence to back up a single one of your allegations of wrongdoing. But comment away as if you do – that’s your thing. I’ll wait to hear what the courts/ licensing board have to say.

    5. Randy–

      Of course not.

      I’ve enumerated every bit of evidence and you still see it as “Zero” because you’re 500% partisan. And your emotions are taking over. My emotions fully convince me this child needed an abortion. But the way Bernard went about it was activism…her injecting her personal views to circumvent state laws she found were unjust (to which I disagree) and a criminal reporting procedure that she and the Ohio doctors bypassed, letting the rape victim become their prop for activism as a result.

      I cannot even make enough provisions for how I support abortion in this case. Fundamentally, Dr. Bernard would have been doing the right thing in giving this child an abortion, given the circumstances by which she is pregnant…if she were in Ohio. But why downplay the rape? Why downplay the illegal immigrant rapist? Why’d she even get involved?

      Caitlin Bernard still f’ed up. Our TweedleDee attorney general absolutely was going to get involved and do his usual moral preening, because we know how he feels about abortion. But it was an interstate issue when Bernard inserted herself, serving as what she no doubt sees as a “conductor on the Underground Railroad” to help someone from Ohio-Gilead. And, in evading one state’s laws without giving them their full legal recourse, she inevitably forced the Indiana AG to step in.

  1. Mr. Rokita seems to really have it out for this doctor for no reason other than pure vindictiveness. Come on Indiana Republicans… nominate normal next time.

    1. What are your thoughts on Deputy AG Caryn Nieman-Szyper? She seems to articulate quite effectively Dr. Bernard’s ethical breaches, and, presuming she is herself a “birthing person” who possesses the equipment to conceive of a child, she either recognizes an ethical concern here or she’s cravenly parroting what her boss Todd wants her to say, which I guess would be…internalized misogyny and her desire to oppress women across the country?

      Help me understand how to look at this with more nuance than a simple good/evil binary. Clearly I’m coming up short.

    2. If we are going on about ethical breaches, and those deserve to be punished …

      What’s the punishment for an attorney general who goes on Fox News to claim there was no filed paperwork … when the paperwork had been filed on July 2nd, a full eleven days before he made his media hit on Fox News on July 13th?

      How are you supposed to take seriously claims of violating privacy standards from an elected official who didn’t even spend 10 minutes to do any research before making his media hits? Should Todd Rokita not be held to a higher standard than an abortion doctor?

    3. Mr. Rokita appears to be doubling down out of equal doses of vindictiveness and stupidity. This is just more evidence to lay before the state bar association and the state Supreme Court.

    4. Ask Indiana voters to elect normal. Look at the smack we are going to have for Secretary of State.

    5. Lauren, the Indiana doctor did not reveal the identity (name, home address, or any other personal identifying information) of the 10-year old girl when discussing this case. The child’s right to privacy, which appears to be the basis of Rokita’s complaint, therefore was not violated by this doctor. Indeed law enforcement and the judicial system routinely discuss cases involving minors while maintaining the privacy rights of underage victims and their perpetrators.

    6. Brent, this was never supposed to be an Indiana issue. There would have been no reason for the Indiana AG to get involved except for the unnecessary crossing of state lines–the blurring of statutes. This was an Ohio crime, so the 3-day Indiana law that the Associated “Press” likes to cite is irrelevant. Even if Ohio has a similar 3-day reporting law, that would have affected the crooked Ohio doctors who conspired with Bernard to make this a political activism issue. Not revealing the child’s identity is completely irrelevant: she reported it to the media when it should have been reported to police, and only police should have engaged with the media. As you correctly note, “law enforcement and the judicial system routinely discuss cases involving minors”, but in this case, it was a doctor discussing it with the press at a pro-abortion rally. And it was a media firestorm within 24 hours; exactly what our activist doctor wanted.

      Joe, Rokita is as bad of a slobbering partisan as Dr. Bernard. But only Dr. Bernard has taken a Hippocratic oath or abides by medical confidentiality agreements. This shouldn’t have even been an Indiana AG consideration, but Bernard’s underhanded way of dealing with this made it so. Paperwork filed in Indiana isn’t really going to matter for an Ohio sexual assault, but the AP deliberately avoids mentioning this because it harms the narrative. In the unlikely event that Ohio made absolutely zero provisions for rape and incest, the very act of the crime could have still triggered an intervention that would have drawn attention to this legislative shortcoming, making it an Ohio issue that deserved remediation–most 10 year olds are too small to carry a child to term and that most certainly prompts an exemption to the accumulation of strict abortion laws in Ohio over time. Instead, the doctors chose to see abortion activism a greater priority than a 10-year-old’s sexual assault by an illegal immigrant.

      Say whatever you want about Rokita; the man is truly insufferable. And, as far as arguments favoring less stringent abortion laws, there is hardly a better example to beat the pro-life crowd with than this one. But the issue should have been the rape by a person who shouldn’t even be in this country, and the mother’s enabling of it–not the differences is gestational permissibility between a strict Ohio and slightly less strict Indiana. That was the contrived method to trigger a media firestorm.

      Still think she should get an abortion. Still think Rokita and Bernard are both scum.

    7. It’s not unlikely. It’s a fact there are no rape/incest provisions. You are wrong… unless you’re going to just claim the Republican AG of Ohio is woke.

      “The statute contains three exceptions, though they are not labeled as such: one to prevent the death of the mother, the second, due to a serious risk of the substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function of the pregnant mother, and the third in cases of an ectopic pregnancy. ”

      https://www.ohioattorneygeneral.gov/Media/News-Releases/July-2022/Ohio-Attorney-General-s-Office-Issues-Legal-Explai

    8. As I said, Joe, even in the unlikely event that Ohio had zero provisions for rape and incest, they could have either A) used the case that a 10-year-old (who quite possibly has minimal understanding of ovulation) cannot physically carry a child to term healthfully (IOW, excepts 1 and 2 that you cite), or B) made it a case that Ohio should relax its statutes restricting rape. In fact, they could have done both. Call this back-seat policing on my part, but this is what a dutiful adherence to the law would have encouraged. Either way, the focus would remain in Ohio and the girl’s victimization would have been the forefront. No involvement from Caitlin Bernard whatsoever….and, thus, no involvement from an Indiana AG.

      I remain firm that, after Dr. Bernard pays her dues, she should be able to resume practice…at least until she does this again (hopefully she’ll learn her lesson). I think this a perfect example of a justifiable abortion and evidence that states like Ohio AND Indiana are too strict.

      Your hyperpartisan hatred of all things GOP only sees one angle. But you make this obvious 10X a day.

      Do you still think vaccines should be forced on people to the extent that they lose their job and fundamental rights if they refuse? “My body my choice” and “safe legal AND RARE” were a reasonable middle ground five years ago.

    9. So then you’re wanting a doctor to just assume that the attorney general will agree with your interpretation of the law and risk they don’t get some blowhard lawyer getting involved who wants to argue that plenty of 10 year olds give birth and she will be fine. What doctor wants to deal with that?

      That’s the intentional ambiguity. It allows people to claim, oh, abortions are still legal. We aren’t heartless monsters. The reality is that Ohio chose to have no rape/incest provisions for kids in their laws. Indiana did after learning from Ohio’s experience. That’s no accident. They want doctors to be scared away from giving even needed abortions, worried some lawyer who couldn’t play Operation will decide they knew better.

      A reminder, the guy who wrote this law wanted the girl to give birth.

      “The 10-year-old Ohio girl who crossed state lines to receive an abortion in Indiana should have carried her pregnancy to term and would be required to do so under a model law written for state legislatures considering more restrictive abortion measures, according to the general counsel for the National Right to Life.”

      “Jim Bopp, an Indiana lawyer who authored the model legislation in advance of the Supreme Court’s decision overturning Roe v. Wade, told POLITICO on Thursday that his law only provides exceptions when the pregnant person’s life is in danger.”

      “She would have had the baby, and as many women who have had babies as a result of rape, we would hope that she would understand the reason and ultimately the benefit of having the child,”

      Yes, I should give people like Jim Bopp more slack. (Why you don’t loathe him given his work on Citizens United, perhaps the greatest lever the elite have against the serfs, is beyond me. But I digress.)

      Rokita will lose this case like he loses just about every case. If you’re counting on him, you may as well be counting on Jim Irsay to deliver a winning football team. It’s not about the case. It’s about his political career. That’s why he is persisting. It’s a free way to keep his name in the papers since he doesn’t have the funding of Braun or Hollingsworth.

    1. That would be the domain of Ohio law enforcement, Charles. Rokita can only get involved in the criminal and ethical violations that involved the crossing of state lines.

    2. Lauren, there were zero criminal or ethical violations in either Ohio or Indiana. If you think I’m wrong, then tell me why Ohio is not prosecuting the 10 year old (along with the adult who transported her to Indiana) and why Rokita is passing this case off to the medical licensing board for “disciplinary” action rather than prosecuting the doctor for a crime? Your rhetorical spin on this issue is making us all dizzy.

  2. If all would remember it was the arrogant good doctor that started this fray.

    Wise and haughty to be a leftwing liberal superstar, she didn’t follow ethical and legal procedure as to run to a news reporter first instead of reporting to authorities as required by law.

    Rokita laid the perfect legal trap if she wasn’t so star struck upon herself that she and her legal counsel should’ve seen it.

    The good doctor didn’t and doesn’t care about anyone except herself.

    This is a slam dunk for any prosecutor.

    1. Very good points. And I say this despite intensely disliking Rokita and thinking Dr. Bernard was fundamentally correct in performing the abortion, even if it never needed to reach Indiana in the first place and this would have been an Ohio issue if it weren’t for the opportunity to make some political hay.

      Dr. Bernard might be a very capable doctor and her stance on abortion might be legit in the eyes of those of us who are pro-choice. But she chose a deeply unethical approach of drawing attention to a little girl raped by an illegal, relying on the media to do her bidding and relay only the facts of the case that support her activist narrative. It must be nice to hold a worldview that you can easily promulgate through multi-million dollar infrastructure without even having to shell out the money for a soap box. Would that other perspectives had a similar degree of access to uncritical institutions?!

    2. You should read the HIPPA laws. No PMI was released. Sending a child across state lines to get medical treatment for the result of a rape was the true crime.

  3. This is no slam dunk for any prosecutor because it has already been established that Dr. Bernard filed the necessary legal form to the Indiana Department of Health and Department of Child Services. This would be the legal basis on which any action by the AG should (or could) rest. Even with that legal litmus test being met, the AG presses on.

    HIPAA provides for the protection of patient information but not generalized information tied to a larger population subset. For Dr. Bernard to report to anyone that she performed an abortion on a 10 year old Ohio girl, narrows that subset to all 10 year old girls in Ohio. Were a doctor to report that he had treated that same girl for B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia and to not disclose or associate the patient’s name, would Mr. Rokita be making the same efforts to prosecute? Doubtful.

    And so this comes down to the fact that this was an abortion. An abortion performed legally and reported properly. It, therefore, is obvious that he does it for his own political and personal gain.

    If you want to “dislike” or condemn Dr. Bernard for talking about a procedure she had undertaken on a 10 year old girl, then go ahead. But there is no legal breach here.

    We can do better than Todd Rokita….much, much better.

  4. We seem to lose track that it was the AG who started all of this. All was properly reported and the doctor has said nothing publicly except as defense against the AG allegations. Who really violated HIPPA with the first onslaught???
    Drop this issue!

    1. EXACTLY! And in his court filings HE is asking that the child’s medical records be released. NOT Dr. Bernard.

    2. It was Caitlin Bernard who started all of this. There’s nothing to “properly report” in Indiana since it was an Ohio crime. The 3-day period is irrelevant–and she violated medical code of ethics by blabbing to the press instead of exclusively telling the police.

      AG had his head in the sand until, like an animal in a skinner box, he responded instinctively the way he always does when his favorite topic comes up. But why would he have been aware if it had remained in Ohio?

  5. Rokita is simply looking to land in Fox News and dine with his idol in SW Florida. The Dr practiced humane medical treatment for a 10 year old girl. A 10 year old.
    Imagine if Rokita fought for real problems in our stare like this. Trump wanna be

  6. Lauren B. I do respect your logic in this thread. But if logic prevails and the AG has no legal basis to continue the witch hunt, then shouldn’t this be left to the “ethics” claim (which I don’t feel is legitimate because denying doctors the right to express opinions or use their professional knowledge to support broader social issues is not a violation of ethics.)

    This was a situational occurrence that allowed Dr. Bernard to legally perform the procedure, document per the law and discuss, in no way indicating the name of the patient other than age, sex, consent of adult and medical procedure. No name.

    Does any doctor violate such ethics when they use general patient information tied to a subset of population to support their moral or social views and/or values? I think not. We would have very few doctors were that the case.

    So, once again, this comes down to THE PROCEDURE ON A 10 YEAR OLD OHIO GIRL….an abortion. That’s it. Any other procedure and Rokita would have given it a second look.

    So he wants Dr. Bernard to be disciplined by the MLB. I do think, however, that Dr. Bernard left Indiana to set up a practice in Illinois which means losing her license in Indiana is rather inconsequential. Could be wrong on that, but it seems Rokita is really grandstanding here.

    1. I appreciate your effort to pretend to be moderate and non partisan. I think you’ve done it before. It’s not convincing of course, since you refer to this as a “witch hunt” when both the Ohio abortion activists and Dr. Bernard didn’t treat this as a rape until after they treated it as a vehicle for abortion activism. Maybe the family facing this situation wanted to turn into a cause-celebre…but would that matter since the woman is criminally contributing to the delinquency of her daughter and the man should have been deported long ago? Thus it becomes a minor that abortion doctors in Ohio and Indiana are exploiting for advocacy. So virtuous!

      If doctors are engaged in a case and impart their knowledge to support “broader social issues” that is almost certainly a violation of ethics. It would be no better if a pro-life obstetrician deliberately withheld legal medical next steps for a person considering an abortion simply because he/she disagreed with it in practice. She’d be taking an advocacy role and letting that supersede her role as a physician.

      If it’s true that Dr. Bernard “left Indiana to set up a practice in Illinois”, that’s not typically the behavior of a person who thinks she has a strong ethical case in the state where she engaged in the alleged violation, is it? If Rokita is grandstanding, Dr. Bernard should be able to face him confidently–he’s a self important boob more often than not.

      I still think this child should have gotten her abortion, and I still think, after receiving the correct censure and punishment for ethical violation, that Dr. Bernard should be able to resume her practice. But she is not Little Miss Innocent. You are clearly pro-abortion and have no capacity to see this from a neutral perspective. Nice try though!

  7. GAWD I hope he moves to Texas Running for governor gives me chilis after Diego Morales was elected any one can get elected in IN if they bite the GOP apple

  8. Abortion is a divisive issue as the comments show. But when you have a publicity hound with radical right wing, Trump loving feelings as your top legal officer, it results in more embarrassment for all of Indiana. Rokita and Morales show how far one party has fallen, intellectually, in our state.

    1. It is why after supporting Republicans since casting my first vote for Richard Nixon five decades ago, in 2016 I became an independent. I don’t think the GOP will ever be “normal” again.

    2. Always hilarious to hear the party of “intellectual” high ground report their “embarrassment”–people who cannot distinguish male and female, who cannot see that Putin and Zelenskyy are basically the same dictator, who cannot see how our colleges are basically 21st Century Jonestowns, and who remain utterly dependent on the “press” hiding their misdeeds before a complacent and gullible public, yet they can still go poo-poo toward GOP anti-intellectualism. Not a lick of self-reflection–of saying, “I could be wrong.” Not the least bit of the capacity to see how much the Dems in 2022 resemble the white southern Dixiecrats of 1962–they hold all the money and institutional power, punch down on people who have none, think they’re virtuous while doing so and are convinced that, despite the fact that they have most billionaires and academics and QUANGO leaders and foundation dollars, that they stand for the little guy…and that they themselves, a party replete with affluent urbanites, are themselves oppressed.

      And I remain 100% convinced that the GOP would behave the exact same if they had as little accountability as the Dems do. But they don’t. Go to a news aggregator site like MSN.com and 95% of it will be reporting on the misdeeds of Republicans. Every single day. But yes, it’s perfectly “normal” when one party has nothing but corrupt redneck idiots and the other party is just virtuous hard-working idealists committed to “saving our democracy”–so funny! Civil War 2.0 Funny!

    3. GOP isn’t done falling now Braun has filled to run for Governor for a trifecta of TRUMPIAN MAGA’s joining Rokita and Morales on Indiana’s list of embarrassing politicians .

  9. Lauren B. Your continued claim of “ethical violation” rests in no basis of fact other than your own interpretation of what, in this matter, is ethical. You have constructed an opinion that you claim (or assert) rests in fair judgement of the facts but you’re quick to assume that the sole reason for Dr Bernard’s relating her real experience (in violation of no law in the state within which she practices or was licensed) as being motivated by some need for virtuous political or social gain. Really? How do you have such insight as to her intent? And so what is your intent, Lauren B? If, as you claim, the child should of had the abortion as properly provided by Dr Bernard and, further, you believe any legal basis for penalty to be null, it must be then, you expect the MLB to censor and fine her, allow her to continue to practice? Practice what? She left INDIANA to do what she feels morally compelled to do, offer abortions within the legal parameters of where she practices. That can no longer happen for her in INDIANA.
    Your insinuation that she lacks the courage to stand up to Rokita here infers some lack of character on her part. She didn’t RUN AWAY from anything. She RAN TO a place where she could legally carry out her moral beliefs that involved her professional training.

    Physicians are consistently placed in compromising situations that conflict moral beliefs with their obligation to provide care to their patients but your claim of unethical behavior, based on what YOU believe ethical behavior by physicians to be may mot be supported by others and certainly not by the AMA’s “Code of Ethical Behavior”.

    As for my implied neutral ground….I’m sorry if it appeared to you I was trying to be. Like you, I am not neutral, have strong feelings that rest in a belief that this witch hunt by Rokita needs to end. It only promotes continued discord with no valued outcome.

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