Indiana chides doctor for speaking publicly

Norman Ray
Norman Ray

Global Courant 2023-05-26 14:19:15

The Indiana Medical Licensing Board decided late Thursday to reprimand and fine a doctor after it ruled she violated patient privacy laws by talking to a newspaper reporter about aborting a 10-year-old rape victim from neighboring Indiana. Ohio.

After an hour-long hearing, the board voted to appoint obstetrician-gynecologist Dr. Caitlin Bernard of Indianapolis was reprimanded and fined $3,000, but refused a request from Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita to suspend Bernard’s license. The board rejected Rokita’s allegations that Bernard had violated state law by not reporting the child abuse to Indiana authorities.

Bernard has become a focal point in the national abortion rights debate since he performed the procedure on the Ohio girl last June, not long after the United States Supreme Court overturned the landmark Roe v. Wade case that ruled abortion in the United States nearly 50 years ago. legalized all over the country. The unprecedented Supreme Court decision triggered a law in Ohio that banned abortions after six weeks of pregnancy. Bernard said the girl was six weeks and three days pregnant when she traveled across state lines to Indiana, which at the time allowed abortions up to 20 weeks after conception.

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The doctor is under fire from Rokita, an anti-abortion Republican, and the two have been at odds for months. Indiana’s attorney general filed a complaint against Bernard in December with the state’s medical licensing board, alleging she violated federal and state laws regarding patient privacy and reporting child abuse.

A judge then dismissed a lawsuit brought by Bernard and her colleague, Dr. Amy Caldwell, against Rokita for preventing his office from accessing patients’ medical records and investigating abortion providers. The judge declined to issue a preliminary injunction against Rokita for referring investigations into Bernard to the Indiana Medical Licensing Board, saying the board now has jurisdiction over the investigations.

Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita speaks in Schererville, Ind. on November 8, 2022.

Darron Cummings/AP, DOSSIER

Bernard’s lawsuit had accused Rokita of violating patient-doctor confidentiality and claims he targets doctors who provide legal medical care, including abortions, according to court documents.

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An Ohio investigation eventually led to a 27-year-old man being charged with the rape of the 10-year-old girl.

Bernard told the Indiana Medical Licensing Board that she complied with the study. She said the patient was hospitalized after getting a medicated abortion so the fetal remains could be collected and presented as evidence.

In her testimony at a hearing in Indianapolis on Thursday, Bernard heavily criticized Ohio and Indiana politicians for politicizing the matter.

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“I think if the Attorney General, Todd Rokita, hadn’t chosen to make this his political stunt, we wouldn’t be here today,” Bernard said. “I don’t think anyone would have viewed this story any differently than any other interview I’ve ever given if it hadn’t been politicized as it was by public figures in our state and in Ohio.”

Dr. Caitlin Bernard checks her phone, May 25, 2023, for a hearing before the state medical board at the Indiana Government South building in downtown Indianapolis.

Mykal McEldowney/IndyStar/USA Today Network

Bernard argued that she does not see abortion as a political issue, but rather as part of comprehensive reproductive health care. Bernard said she was one of only two complex family specialists in Indiana and has done interviews in the past with reporters who have not received as much attention.

Bernard told the board she had not disclosed any identifiable information about the patient to the press, but thought it was important for the public to know what impact abortion bans could have on care in the state. She said that a hypothetical person would not have sent that message.

“I think it’s incredibly important for people to understand the real impact of this country’s laws on abortion or otherwise,” Bernard said in her testimony. “I think it’s important for people to know what patients will have to go through because of legislation that gets passed and a hypothetical doesn’t make that impact.”

“It doesn’t help people understand what’s happening and I think once again people need to know the real impact of those laws so they can decide for themselves whether to support them or oppose them. Especially if those laws are about to be passed to be in their own states,” she added.

Bernard also told the board that she properly reported the child abuse case in accordance with her hospital’s guidelines when she reported it to Ohio authorities. Ohio is where the patient lived at the time and where the abuse took place.

Indiana chides doctor for speaking publicly

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