Indiana OB-GYN Dr. Caitlin Bernard has been caught up in a national political debate after discussing an abortion she performed on a 10-year-old girl who reported rape in Ohio. Public attacks were launched against Bernard with accusations of disobeying state laws and patient privacy.
Now, Bernard’s employer, IU Health, said the hospital system had conducted an investigation and concluded it complied with patient privacy laws.
“IU Health regularly launches reviews, including hot topics regarding Dr. Caitlin Bernard,” IU Health officials said in a statement. “IU Health’s investigation revealed that Dr. Bernard was complying with privacy laws.”
After the cancellation of Roe v. Wade on June 24, state-level abortion restrictions were launched nationwide. Ohio has banned abortions after six weeks of pregnancy without exception for rape or incest, which Bernard says drove the family of the 10-year-old rape victim across state lines.
The political whirlwind began in early July after Bernard told the Indianapolis Star on the case. When the story came out, it went viral, gaining national and international attention. But, at the time, there was no evidence provided that the rape or abortion actually took place, leading to a wave of public attacks on Bernard’s integrity.
My heart breaks for all survivors of sexual assault and abuse. I am so sad that our country is letting them down when they need us the most. Physicians must be able to provide people with the medical care they need, when and where they need it.
— Caitlin Bernard (@drcaitbernard) July 14, 2022
This week, Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita charged Bernard on Fox News – without providing evidence – of a history of non-compliance with state law, which requires providers to report the abortions they perform.
“We have this abortion activist, acting as a doctor, with a history of not reporting [abortions]. So we’re gathering the information, we’re gathering the evidence as we speak,” Rokita said in the interview. “We will fight until the end, including reviewing her license if she does not show up. And in Indiana, it’s a crime… to intentionally fail to report.
Now the documents obtained and verified by NPR and WFYI Indiana state health officials show Bernard was compliant in reporting the case to state health agencies.
In a statement Friday, Rokita said his office is “gathering evidence from multiple sources and agencies related to these allegations,” and that legal review remains open.
Bernard did not immediately respond to a request for comment – but she spoke to WFYI minutes after Roe was knocked down on June 24.
“I can’t tell you how many women I’ve seen who don’t want an abortion, they do it because it’s the only choice they have,” Bernard said, fighting back tears. “They can’t feed their families, they can’t go to work. They can’t go to school, they can’t get away from the abuser they’re with because of this pregnancy.
In a tweet on July 13, Bernard said, “My heart breaks for all survivors of sexual assault and abuse. I’m so sad that our country is failing them when they need us most. Doctors must being able to give people the medical care they need, when and where they need it.”
Bernard’s attorney, Indianapolis-based Kathleen DeLaney, said in a statement Friday that she sent a cease and desist to Rokita on behalf of her client, calling Rokita’s statements to Fox News “false and defamatory”.
“Further, to the extent that any statement you make exceeds the general scope of your authority as Indiana Attorney General, such statement forms the basis of a suitable defamation claim. “, cease and desist letter states. “We are particularly concerned that, given the controversial political context of the statements, such inflammatory accusations have the potential to incite public harassment or violence, which could prevent Dr. ‘Indiana, to provide him with care. [patients] without issue.”
This isn’t the first time abortion providers like Bernard have been harassed and threatened across the country. over the years. A National Abortion Federation report found that assaults on abortion clinic staff and patients increased 128% in 2021 from the previous year. The data also shows a 6x increase in harassment incidents and a more than 4x increase in blocking.
Bernard told WFYI that she and her family faced serious threats a few years ago when she was working in Louisville, Kentucky.
“There was an online threat [against] the provider for a Kentucky clinic in Louisville, where I worked at Planned Parenthood,” she said. “They threatened to kidnap her daughter to prevent her from performing abortions. And I’m the only doctor there with a daughter.
In 2013, police arrested a man in Bloomington after he attempted to break into a Planned Parenthood building with an ax. According to police reports, the man wanted to damage the building because the providers are “murdering” the babies.
This story comes from a reporting collaboration that includes the Indianapolis Recorder and Public media on side effects, a public health information initiative based at WFYI. Contact Farah at [email protected] Follow on Twitter: @Farah_Yousrym.