Rokita advances complaint against Bernard to Indiana Medical Licensing Board

Testimony, evidence appears to show Dr. Bernard communicated with Ohio authorities and notified Indiana Dept. of Child Services a few days after the abortion

By: - November 30, 2022 12:00 pm

Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita and Dr. Caitlin Bernard. (Photos from Attorney General’s Office and IU Health.)

Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita on Wednesday sent a complaint against an Indianapolis-based doctor who is at the center of a controversial abortion case to the Indiana Medical Licensing Board.

The Republican attorney general said in a statement that Dr. Caitlin Bernard “failed to immediately report the abuse and rape of a child to Indiana authorities” after performing the abortion on a 10-year-old girl from Ohio in June.

“Here, only Indiana authorities could have possibly stopped this little girl from being sent home to endure possible future harm by her alleged rapist,” Rokita said in a written statement.

But testimony and evidence appears to show Bernard communicated with Ohio authorities even before she administered abortion-inducing medication. She also notified the Indiana Department of Child Services a few days after the abortion.

Rokita additionally said Bernard “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 investigation of Bernard and her medical partner Dr. Amy Caldwell prompted a lawsuit from the doctors against the attorney general earlier this month. Lawyers for the doctors are trying to block Rokita’s office from accessing the abortion patients’ medical records, and also prevent future “unchecked oversteps” by the attorney general.

Marion County Superior Court Judge Heather Welch held an emergency hearing on an injunction request last week, following an earlier one days before that.

Attorneys for the state concede that Bernard submitted a terminated pregnancy report on time, but emphasized that the doctor should have “immediately” reported to Indiana DCS or local law enforcement her reason to believe that an underage patient was a victim of abuse or neglect.

The attorney general’s office said in court filings that the immediacy requirement for reporting abuse conveys “a required strong sense of urgency in action and primacy of purpose in fulfilling the duty to report.” That could mean a need to report such abuse within “hours” of first meeting with the patient.

The law doesn’t define what “immediately” means, however.

Legal documents obtained by the Indiana Capital Chronicle, as well as Bernard’s court filings, say she submitted the terminated pregnancy report to Indiana DCS less than three days after the abortion.

In her email notification to Indiana DCS, Bernard indicated that the case “was already reported through DCS in Ohio.” Speaking on the stand last week, Bernard doubled down, saying she communicated and cooperated with law enforcement officials in Ohio from the time she was notified by an Ohio physician seeking help with the child’s case. That was days before Bernard said she first met with the patient in-person.

“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,” Rokita said Wednesday. “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.

This story will be updated.

This story was published earlier by the Indiana Capital Chronicle, an affiliate of the nonprofit States Newsroom network, which includes the Florida Phoenix.

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Casey Smith
Casey Smith

A lifelong Hoosier, Casey Smith is a reporter for the Indiana Capital Chronicle. She previously reported on the Indiana Legislature for The Associated Press. She holds a master’s degree in investigative reporting and narrative science writing from the University of California/Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism. She previously earned degrees in journalism, anthropology and Spanish from Ball State University, where she now serves as an instructor of journalism.