INDIANAPOLIS — 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 aired in the weeks after Roe v. Wade attracted national attention through the US Supreme Court.
dr Caitlin Bernard testified on the second day of a court hearing about an attempt to block Indiana’s Republican Attorney General from requesting 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 Ohio’s Fetal Heartbeat statute went into effect with the Supreme Court decision. 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 who wanted an abortion, some news outlets and Republican politicians suggested their account was fabricated. President Joe Biden expressed his sympathy for the child when he signed an executive order protecting access to abortion.
Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita told Fox News in July that he would investigate whether Bernard violated the child abuse reporting or abortion reporting laws. Rokita has continued the investigation even after a 27-year-old man in Columbus, Ohio, was charged with raping the girl, and public records show that Bernard complied with Indiana’s mandatory three-day reporting deadline for having an abortion on a girl under 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.
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