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Doctor who provided abortion to 10-year-old girl moves to sue attorney general for defamation

In this Sept. 16, 2020 file photo, Republican attorney general candidate Todd Rokita speaks during a news conference in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings, File)

INDIANAPOLIS (WXIN) — An attorney representing Dr. Caitlin Bernard, who provided an abortion on a 10-year-old rape victim, has filed a tort claim against Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita — the first step in a defamation lawsuit against Rokita.

“Mr. Rokita’s false and misleading statements about alleged misconduct by Dr. Bernard in her profession constitute defamation,” said Attorney Kathleen A. DeLaney, who represents Bernard.

The lawsuit comes on the heels of a cease and desist issued by DeLaney, which was itself a response to Rokita’s continued public comments aimed at Bernard. Rokita went on Fox News on July 13, calling Bernard an “abortion activist acting as a doctor” and said she had a “history of failing to report” and even threatened to go after Bernard’s license.

The Fox News caption underneath Rokita proclaimed “Doc Failed to Report Abortion Abuse Victim,” according to the tort claim.

However, Nexstar’s WXIN obtained documents showing that Bernard did file the report, and even filed it within the timeframe required.

DeLaney also said that a “simple check” on a government license website would have confirmed that Dr. Bernard’s license was active with no disciplinary history.

In addition, Indiana University Health issued a statement saying they conducted an investigation into Dr. Bernard and found her in compliance with privacy laws.

But despite Rokita and his office being able to obtain this information, Rokita spoke publically in national and local media, continuing to vow an investigation into her license, and to see if she had filed the report.

“Rokita either knew the statements were false or acted with reckless disregard to the truth or falsity of the statements,” DeLaney said in the tort claim. “Mr. Rokita recklessly and/or negligently failed to ascertain whether the statements about Dr. Bernard’s licensure were true or false before making them.”

DeLaney said Rokita’s statements “exceed the general scope of Mr. Rokita’s authority as Indiana’s Attorney General.”

“Given the current political atmosphere in the United States, Mr. Rokita’s comments were intended to heighten public condemnation of Dr. Bernard, who legally provided legitimate medical care,” the tort claim said.

The filing triggers a 90-day investigative period for the state to settle the claim, after which a lawsuit can be filed.

Rokita’s office provided WXIN with the following statement:

Attorney General Rokita and the Office of Attorney General are leaders in the pro-life movement. His historic work has further distinguished Indiana as a protector of unborn life and women. This is part of a divisive narrative and an attempt to distract from the important work of the office, including the duty to determine whetherpractitioners have violated the standards of practice in his or her profession, as well as federal and state laws. We will defend against baseless claims.

KELLY STEVENSON, OFFICE OF ATTORNEY GENERAL TODD ROKITA

The Indiana Democratic Party also released a statement in response to the news:

“Hoosier taxpayers will now have to pay for Attorney General Todd Rokita’s national smear campaign against a doctor who helped a 10-year-old rape survivor attain a legal and safe abortion. The Indiana GOP shows more and more that they will do anything to pursue their extremist agenda — an agenda that eliminates choice and forces women to have birth even in cases of rape, incest, or saving the life of the mother. This agenda is too extreme for Indiana and Hoosiers have had enough of Rokita’s self-serving antics.”

DREW ANDERSON, SPOKESMAN FOR THE INDIANA DEMOCRATIC PARTY
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