The Indiana doctor who provided an abortion for a 10-year-old rape victim has dropped her request for an injunction against the state’s attorney general over his investigation into alleged complaints about her.
Dr. Caitlin Bernard, who was catapulted into the national political fray after a local newspaper relayed the young Ohio girl’s story of needing to cross states lines to obtain an abortion, sued Attorney General Todd Rokita (R) in November. The lawsuit followed Rokita’s public statements about his investigation into Bernard and her medical partner, Dr. Amy Caldwell.
Rokita based his investigation on so-called “consumer complaints” that, according to Bernard, were blatantly false and provided by people who had never interacted with either doctor.
On Thursday, Bernard’s lawyer issued a statement announcing the voluntary withdrawal of the doctor’s lawsuit.
“With today’s voluntary dismissal, we preserve our victory in court proving that the Attorney General violated Indiana law by publicly discussing the details of an investigation into Dr. Bernard which he was statutorily required to keep confidential at that stage,” attorney Kathleen DeLaney of DeLaney & DeLaney LLC said in a statement Thursday. “While the motion for emergency relief was pending, AG Rokita dropped his investigation of Dr. Caldwell altogether. We are now shifting all our attention to the complaint Mr. Rokita has filed against Dr. Bernard with the Medical Licensing Board.”
Bernard and Caldwell had asked an Indiana judge to issue an order blocking Rokita from issuing subpoenas seeking medical records of patients who had sought an abortion from them.
On Dec. 2, Marion Superior Court Judge Heather Welch issued a ruling that led both sides to declare victory: Bernard celebrated the fact that Welch found Rokita to have violated Indiana privacy law, and Rokita cheered the denial of Bernard’s emergency request as a win.
“Dr. Bernard has met her burden to show irreparable harm based on the Attorney General’s public statements regarding investigations which by Indiana law must have remained confidential until the complaint was filed with the Medical Licensing Board,” Welch wrote in her ruling.
Welch also noted that Indiana law requires confidentiality of consumer complaints and information relating to consumer complaints until the attorney general files a notice with the licensing board, which Rokita did only days before the judge’s ruling — and after he had announced the investigation into Bernard.
Rokita’s filing nonetheless took the matter out of the court’s jurisdiction, essentially nullifying Bernard’s reason for the injunction request.
On Thursday, DeLaney said that she is ready to defend Bernard and her medical license against Rokita’s “baseless attacks.”
“Rokita’s actions set a dangerous precedent imperiling the provision of lawful patient care and jeopardizing the confidentiality of patient medical records,” DeLaney said in the statement. “And Rokita continues to take these actions at taxpayer expense.”
In July, the Indianapolis Star featured a brief retelling by Bernard about a recent patient, a young rape victim from Ohio who was pregnant. The girl traveled to neighboring Indiana for abortion care due to her home state’s restrictive abortion laws in the wake of the Supreme Court’s June ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which overturned decades of abortion rights guaranteed by Roe v. Wade.
As Bernard’s story gained national attention, Rokita took to Fox News to criticize the doctor and announce that his office would be investigating her for alleged violations Indiana law regarding patient privacy, abortion reporting, and child abuse.
So far, none of the investigations into Bernard have revealed any such violations.
Rokita’s office was not deterred, however, from further criticizing Bernard.
“Her decision to withdraw her suit less than a week after our win in court is further confirmation that she was putting her political agenda above the privacy and safety of her 10 year old patient,” an office spokesperson told Law&Crime in an emailed statement. “At the same time any of the court’s extraneous verbiage about the attorney general’s comments didn’t have legal value as the court itself acknowledged.”
Read Bernard’s voluntary notice of dismissal here.
[Image via CBS Evening News/YouTube screengrab.]
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