Indiana doctor who spoke out about abortion of 10-year-old girl faces hearing
A disciplinary hearing is underway in Indiana to decide whether to discipline a doctor who spoke publicly about aborting a 10-year-old girl who was raped in Ohio.
Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita, a Republican, accused Dr. Caitlin Bernard of failing to report child abuse and violating patient privacy when speaking to a reporter about the case of the young lady. In a written complaint in November, Rokita asked the Indiana Medical Licensing Board to discipline Bernard as a result.
At Thursday’s hearing, the board is expected to vote on whether Bernard should face penalties. Under Indiana law, possible disciplinary action includes issuing letters of reprimand or suspending or revoking a doctor’s license.
In July, The Indianapolis Star reported that Bernard received a call from a doctor regarding an alleged case of child abuse involving the 10-year-old girl. The child was just over six weeks pregnant. Ohio bans abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy, under a law that was enacted after the Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade.
The girl went to Indiana to receive treatment from Bernard, the Star reported, where abortion was legal at the time. Indiana has since passed a near-total ban on abortion, although a judge later suspended the law.
Cory Voight, director of complex litigation for the Indiana state attorney general’s office, told the licensing commission on Thursday that Bernard violated state law by failing to respect patient confidentiality and by failing to report the matter to Indiana law enforcement and the Indiana Department of Children’s Services.
Voight added that Bernard also violated HIPAA, a law that prohibits medical professionals from disclosing a patient’s sensitive health information without their consent or knowledge.
“This is not a typical hearing. There has been no case like this before the board. No doctor has been so brazen in pursuing his own agenda,” Voight said in his address to ‘opening.
But Bernard’s attorney, Alice Morical, said Bernard had reported the child abuse in a manner that complied with Indiana law, as she had informed a social worker at her university of the existence of the 10 year old patient. Regarding HIPPA, Morical added, Bernard did not violate the law because his comments to The Indianapolis Star did not include identifying information such as name, date of birth or date of birth. hospital admission of a patient.
“Doctors can talk to the media,” Morical said.
Indiana University Health, where Bernard works as an OB-GYN, investigated the matter last year and determined that Bernard had complied with patient privacy laws.
Bernard sent Rokita a cease and desist letter in July asking him to stop making “false or misleading statements” about him.
Bernard’s case was highly publicized, as his story about the young girl drew strong reactions from political figures on both sides of the aisle.
“Ten years. Raped, six weeks pregnant. Already traumatized. Forced to travel to another state. Imagine being that little girl,” President Joe Biden said at a press conference in July, when he signed an executive order to guarantee access to abortion. . The order included protections for those traveling from a state that bans abortion to a state where the service is legal.
Some Republican leaders, including Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan, falsely suggested in July that Bernard fabricated his young patient’s story, as did Fox News commentator Jesse Watters and former Fox News host Tucker Carlson .
“I was surprised that people thought that young girls unfortunately don’t get raped frequently and get pregnant,” Bernard said during Thursday’s hearing. “The idea that it was something someone was making up or was a lie, or something that doesn’t happen, surprised me a lot.”
An Ohio man, Gerson Fuentes, was charged with the rape of the 10-year-old girl in July, and a detective testified that month that the girl had an abortion in Indianapolis on June 30.
It has not been made public what Fuentes’ relationship was with the girl prior to the alleged rape. Bernard said Thursday that his colleague from Ohio told him the girl had two brothers who were possible suspects.
Associated Press contributed.