INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — An Indianapolis doctor who administered abortion drugs to a 10-year-old Ohio rape victim defended her actions Monday before a judge in an episode that garnered national attention for weeks after the US Supreme Court Roe v. Wade had picked up.
dr Caitlin Bernard testified on the second day of a court hearing in an attempt to prevent the Republican Attorney General of Indiana from obtaining medical records from patients. The attorney general’s office says it is investigating whether Bernard properly reported child abuse and may have violated patient privacy laws by telling a newspaper reporter about the girl’s case.
The Marion County judge said she expects to make a decision next week on whether to issue an injunction against the attorney general’s office.
Bernard treated the girl in Indianapolis at the end of June because the girl in neighboring Ohio could not have an abortion. That’s because of Ohio’s “fetal heartbeat” law entered into force with the judgment of the Supreme Court. Such laws prohibit abortions from the point at which cardiac activity can be detected in an embryo, which is typically around the sixth week of pregnancy.
Bernard and her attorneys claim the girl’s abuse was reported to the Ohio Police Department and Child Protective Services officials before the doctor even saw the child. Bernard said during her nearly 90-minute testimony that her lawsuit was aimed at protecting the girl’s privacy.
“There is no evidence that a crime was committed … so no investigation should be necessary,” Bernard said.
Assistant Attorney General Caryn Nieman-Szyper argued that state law still requires Indiana police and child welfare officials to be notified of the abuse immediately so they can assess the child’s safety, even if an investigation is already underway in Ohio had been initiated.
After Bernard told The Indianapolis Star about the girl seeking an abortion, some news outlets and Republican politicians suggested their report was fabricated. President Joe Biden expressed empathy for the child when signing an executive order protecting access to abortion.
Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita told Fox News in July he would investigate whether Bernard broke the law Laws on reporting child abuse or reporting abortions. Rokita has continued the investigation even after a 27-year-old man was charged in Columbus, Ohio, with the rape of the girl, and public records show that Bernard met Indiana’s mandatory three-day reporting deadline for having an abortion on a girl under the age of 16.
Nieman-Szyper said Bernard would not be investigated if she had not disclosed the girl’s rape to a reporter to further her own abortion rights advocacy. Nieman-Szyper said Bernard failed to show that she had permission from the girl’s family to discuss her care publicly, exposing the child to national attention.
Bernard said she hadn’t seen the girl when she told the reporter about her as an example of the impact of tougher abortion laws across the country, but didn’t reveal any identifying information about her.
“I said the patient was raped,” Bernard said. “This is how a 10-year-old gets pregnant.”
Bernard said she told an Indiana University Health social worker that the girl would receive abortion treatment. She said these staff are the ones who ensure reports about the child are forwarded to the appropriate authorities.
Marion County Judge Heather Welch gave attorneys Wednesday a deadline for additional court filings.