INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita announced Wednesday that his office has filed administrative action against Dr. Caitlin Bernard, claiming that she violated laws on patient privacy and reporting child abuse.
Over the summer, Rokita vowed to investigate Dr. Bernard for performing an abortion on a 10-year-old rape victim who traveled from Ohio to Indiana to seek an abortion after the Buckeye State banned abortions after six weeks following the U.S. Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade.
An attorney for Dr. Bernard has since filed a lawsuit against Rokita and the Office of the Attorney General claiming Rokita used “bogus consumer complaints” in an attempt to access patient medical records and “launch baseless investigations” against physicians.
In his announcement Wednesday, Rokita said Dr. Bernard failed to uphold legal and Hippocratic responsibilities “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.”
He also accused Dr. Bernard of failing to immediately report the abuse and rape of a child to Indiana authorities.
The Indiana Medical Licensing Board will examine the accusations and determine consequences should it find them valid.
Below is Rokita’s full statement released Wednesday:
“Today, the Office of the Indiana Attorney General filed an Administrative Action against Dr. Caitlin Bernard before the Indiana Medical Licensing Board. Based on the physician’s own testimony under oath, she violated federal and Indiana law related to patient privacy and the reporting of child abuse.
“First, the physician failed to uphold legal and Hippocratic responsibilities by exploiting a 10-year-old little girl’s traumatic medical story to the press for her own interests. The Hippocratic oath provides, in part: ‘I will respect the privacy of my patients, for their problems are not disclosed to me that the world may know.’ 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. Simply concealing the patient’s name falls far short of her legal and ethical duties here.
“Second, she failed to immediately report the abuse and rape of a child to Indiana authorities. This is required under Indiana law. Here, only Indiana authorities could have possibly stopped this little girl from being sent home to endure possible future harm by her alleged rapist.
“This case is not about whether an abortion was performed. It also is not about the Office exposing anyone’s medical file. Those were arguments designed to thwart our investigation into the physician’s behavior.
“As the Office of the Attorney General, it is our duty to ensure that doctors meet the standard of care. In our opinion, Dr. Bernard fell short in this situation. Now, it is up to the Medical Licensing Board to determine whether there are consequences for violating a patient’s privacy rights and the obligation to immediately report child abuse to Indiana authorities.”
Kathleen DeLaney, an attorney for Dr. Bernard, responded with the following statement:
“The Administrative Action filed today by Mr. Rokita is clearly a last-ditch effort to intimidate Dr. Bernard and other providers of abortion care. The evidence and testimony from last week’s hearing confirmed that Dr. Bernard complied with all reporting requirements, cooperated with law enforcement officials, and discussed a case example only in a de-identified way, within the bounds of applicable privacy laws.
“Mr. Rokita is doubling down on the frivolous consumer complaints by referring them to the licensing authorities. 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 also provided additional information refuting Rokita’s claims:
“Dr. Bernard has testified under oath that she followed her legal responsibilities and her duties as a physician. On multiple occasions her employer has verified she followed her legal duty and the Attorney General himself conceded she did not fail to report the Termination of Pregnancy as he had initially claimed.
“Both testimony and evidence presented at last week’s hearing confirm that Dr. Bernard timely reported potential child abuse to the social work department in the hospital before the patient even traveled to Indianapolis. Deputy Attorney General Mary Hutchison conceded on the stand that Dr. Bernard properly and timely reported the case to social workers within the hospital.
“Furthermore, Katharine Melnick, a Marion County Deputy Prosecutor, who supervises the Special Victims Unit and who has handled over 1,000 child abuse cases, testified last week that in the hospital setting it is social workers, not doctors, who make child abuse reports to law enforcement. This is entirely consistent with the documented communications between hospital social work and law enforcement officials.
“The Deputy Prosecutor also testified that child abuse is reported to local law enforcement in the location where the crime occurred and where the patient resides because those are the authorities that have jurisdiction over the case, meaning that Dr. Bernard’s reporting in tandem with that of the social work department, followed the correct procedures.
“Finally, during her sworn testimony last week, Dr. Bernard confirmed that child abuse authorities and law enforcement authorities in Ohio were both actively involved and investigating the case before the patient even came to Indiana for treatment.
“During the summer of 2022, Dr. Bernard came under attack by various media outlets and public figures after the Indianapolis Star reported that she provided medical and reproductive care for a 10-year-old child abuse victim days after the groundbreaking Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. Public records requests and testimony in the court proceeding confirm that Dr. Bernard complied with all applicable reporting laws.”