An Indianapolis doctor who spoke publicly with a reporter about providing abortion services to a 10-year-old Ohio rape victim was issued a letter of reprimand and fined by Indiana’s medical licensing board on Thursday.
Though her license wasn’t suspended, the board determined that Dr. Caitlin Bernard, an obstetrician-gynecologist, had violated three separate privacy laws in speaking about the incident, and issued her a $3,000 fine–$1,000 per violation–along with the letter.
Bernard made national news last year after she told the Indianapolis Star that she was contacted by a child abuse doctor in Ohio about a pregnant 10-year-old who wanted an abortion outside of Ohio due to the state’s abortion law, which bans all abortions after embryonic cardiac activity is detected–that’s typically only six weeks into a pregnancy. The case became a flashpoint in the post-Roe fight for abortion rights, with several GOP figureheads and media outlets casting doubt on Bernard’s story until an Ohio man was charged with raping the young girl and an Ohio detective confirmed that the abortion had taken place in Indiana.
The complaints brought against Bernard stemmed from Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita, a Republican, who accused Bernard of failing to report child abuse and violating patient privacy by speaking to the Indianapolis Star about the young girl’s procedure. In November, Rokita sent a written complaint to the Indiana Medical Licensing Board asking for disciplinary action to be imposed on Bernard, resulting in a lengthy board meeting to determine fault.
The meeting featured testimony from several witnesses, including Bernard herself.
During her testimony, Bernard told the board that she was not pushing a narrative about abortion when she spoke out about the procedure, but instead believed it was important for Indiana residents to know that their right to abortion was in jeopardy after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.
“Abortion is not a political issue,” she said. “Abortion is part of comprehensive health care and needs to stay squarely in the realm of public health.”
Additionally, Bernard stated that she did, in fact, report her 10-year-old patient’s abuse to both a hospital social worker and Indiana’s Department of Child Services. She also followed legal mandates by reporting the abortion two days after the procedure was performed. Bernard said that she did not believe there would have ever been an issue had Rokita not used her for “his political stunt.”
While Bernard was found liable for three counts of privacy violations, the board dismissed Rokita’s two other allegations in the complaint, determining she did not violate laws requiring physicians to immediately report suspected child abuse and keep up-to-date with mandatory reporting and patient privacy laws.