The lawyer for the Indiana doctor who provided abortion care for a 10-year-old rape victim told reporters that her firm has received notice from the state’s Attorney General advising that his office is investigating the doctor over alleged consumer complaints.
Kathleen DeLaney, who represents Dr. Caitlin Bernard, said Thursday that on Tuesday, disclosed having received notices of “consumer complaint” investigations from the office of Attorney General Todd Rokita (R).
Calling the purported investigations a “nonsensical waste of time and taxpayer money,” DeLaney said that the alleged complaints were baseless — and in some cases, patently inaccurate.
According to DeLaney:
On July 26th, the Office of the Indiana Attorney General sent six separate letters to Dr. Bernard initiating investigations of ‘consumer complaint’ forms. Each complaint form confirms that the person had no interaction with Dr. Bernard. The six complaints came from individuals who are residents of California, Kentucky, Missouri, Ohio and one from Indiana. None of the complaints came from a ‘consumer’ who purchased any goods or services from Dr. Bernard or even from a person who has had direct communication with Dr. Bernard. The complaints are riddled with inaccuracies and rely on no first-hand knowledge. For example, one of the complaints lists a phone number for Dr. Bernard as 555-555 5555. At least one of the six people submitting a complaint has a significant criminal history.
“Unfortunately, Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita continues to use his office to try and intimidate Dr. Caitlin Bernard,” DeLaney’s statement said. “We urge Mr. Rokita to stop wasting taxpayer money and our time on his nonsensical campaign against Dr. Bernard for doing her job as a physician properly and in accordance with the law.”
Bernard, an OBGYN, was briefly quoted in a July 1 story in the Indianapolis Star in which Bernard revealed that she provided abortion care for a 10-year-old abuse victim who had become pregnant. According to Bernard, the girl was unable to receive an abortion in her home state of Ohio due to the state’s restrictive law that prohibits abortions after six weeks. Bernard said that the girl was just days past that deadline.
The case gained national attention after President Joe Biden mentioned it before signing an executive order aimed at protecting abortion rights.
The doctor became the focus of intense right-wing ire after Rokita appeared on Fox News on July 13 and told host Jesse Watters that his office was investigating Bernard and may try to revoke her license.
“So we’re gathering the information, we’re gathering the evidence as we speak and we’re going to fight this to the end, including looking at her licensure,” Rokita said. He referred to Bernard as an “abortion activist acting as a doctor” and said she had a “history of failing to report,” although his office has not offered evidence to support that claim. In a subsequent press release, Rokita invoked federal privacy laws, implying that Bernard may have committed a HIPAA violation.
Subsequent investigations revealed that Bernard did not violate any privacy laws, and that she did indeed file the required paperwork on time.
On July 19, Bernard filed a Notice of Tort Claim against Rokita and the office of the Indiana Attorney General for false statements. The state has 90 days to investigate or settle the claim before Bernard can file a defamation lawsuit.
“We continue to explore legal remedies to hold Mr. Rokita accountable for his conduct,” DeLaney’s office said in the Thursday press release.
When asked for comment, Rokita’s office did not comment on the specific investigation.
“The Attorney General’s office investigates a variety of consumer complaints across the Consumer Protection Division, which is a large division within the office,” press secretary Kelly Stevenson said in an email to Law&Crime. “We don’t discuss the details of investigations.”
This story has been updated to include comment from Rokita’s office.
[Images via Fox News and MSNBC screengrabs.]
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