Healthcare

Judge finds Indiana AG broke law in probe over 10-year-old’s abortion, but declines to halt investigation

Dr. Caitlin Bernard, a reproductive healthcare provider, speaks during an abortion rights rally on June 25, 2022, at the Indiana Statehouse in Indianapolis. (Jenna Watson/The Indianapolis Star via AP)

An Indiana judge found on Friday that the state’s attorney general violated Indiana law by publicly disclosing his investigation into the doctor who conducted an abortion for a 10-year-old rape victim from Ohio, but declined to halt the investigation.

Marion County Superior Court Judge Heather Welch rejected Dr. Caitlin Bernard’s request to block an investigation by Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita (R) into several consumer complaints submitted to his office against Bernard.

The case of the 10-year-old rape victim who was denied an abortion in Ohio in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade ignited public debate this summer about the impacts of the high court’s ruling

The child traveled to Indiana to get an abortion from Bernard, who spoke about the events to a reporter from the Indianapolis Star.

Rokita launched an investigation into the Indianapolis doctor after receiving several consumer complaints, alleging that Bernard failed to report the child’s abuse to the appropriate authorities and violated patient confidentiality by telling the media about the case.

Bernard and her lawyers have maintained that the child’s abuse was reported to Ohio police before the doctor saw her, and records obtained by multiple media outlets have shown that Bernard filed an appropriate report with the Indiana Department of Health within the required three-day window.

Bernard filed the lawsuit against Rokita in early November, claiming that the attorney general failed to determine the merit of the complaints against her before launching an investigation and unlawfully disclosed information about the probe before referring the issue to the Indiana Medical Licensing Board. Rokita referred the issue to the licensing board on Wednesday.

While Judge Welch acknowledged that the attorney general violated Indiana law by publicly discussing the lawsuit before making the referral, she rejected Bernard’s request for an injunction, noting that Rokita was no longer bound to confidentiality after referring the issue to the licensing board.

Welch also noted that the court no longer has jurisdiction to make findings on whether the complaints against Bernard have merit given Rokita’s recent referral.

Rokita celebrated the ruling as “a win for patient privacy rights in the practice of medicine and for properly reporting child abuse” in a statement on Friday. 

“This case is not really about abortion, despite the best efforts of those with an agenda to make it appear that way,” he added.

Tags abortion Caitlin bernard indiana Ohio Todd Rokita
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