Skip to main content

Indiana AG failed to strip medical license from doctor who revealed 10-year-old Ohio rape victim’s abortion, but he declared victory anyway

Left: Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita (R). Right: Dr. Caitlin Bernard.

Left: Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita (R) (via Fox News screengrab). Right: Dr. Caitlin Bernard (via MSNBC screengrab).

The Indiana Medical Licensing Board on Thursday reprimanded and fined Dr. Caitlin Bernard for tipping off an IndyStar reporter to the story of a 10-year-old rape victim who crossed state lines from Ohio for an abortion after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in 2022. What the board did not do is take away Bernard’s medical license. Nor did the board validate the most serious allegations Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita (R) lodged in his administrative complaint about the doctor.

You would not have learned those details, however, if the attorney general’s statement about what took place was the only account you read. In Rokita’s view, the result was a resounding win and the board sided with him.

“Like we have said for a year, this case was about patient privacy and the trust between the doctor and patient that was broken. What if it was your child or your parent or your sibling who was going through a sensitive medical crisis, and the doctor, who you thought was on your side, ran to the press for political reasons?” the attorney general asked rhetorically. “It’s not right, and the facts we presented today made that clear. We appreciate the Medical Licensing Board’s extraordinary time and consideration. My team did a great job getting the Truth [sic] out.”

“Caitlin Bernard was found liable for violating state and federal patient privacy law on three separate counts,” the AG added.

More Law&Crime coverage: Indiana AG files administrative complaint against Dr. Caitlin Bernard

Bernard’s lawyers countered that the attorney general only succeeded in exonerating their client of the most serious claims he raised against the doctor, whether on Fox News, in his complaint, and elsewhere.

“The Medical Licensing Board exonerated Dr. Bernard on Attorney General Rokita’s most serious and completely unsubstantiated claims: (1) that Dr. Bernard allegedly failed to report child abuse, and (2) that Dr. Bernard is ‘unfit’ to practice medicine. The Board Chair even called Dr. Bernard a ‘good doctor,'” Bernard’s lawyer Alice Morical of Hoover Hull Turner, LLP said in a statement to Law&Crime. “While we wholeheartedly disagree with the letter of reprimand on privacy issues, we are proud of Dr. Bernard for standing up for access to compassionate medical care and for her consummate professionalism during these unprecedented proceedings.”

While Rokita has called Bernard an “abortion activist acting as a doctor,” Bernard said that the conservative Republican made unsubstantiated claims about her and was gunning for her medical license for political reasons of his own. It’s no secret that Rokita is “100 percent pro-life.

Bernard even sued Rokita before dropping the case, she said, to focus on the medical board matter.

Law&Crime also obtained a statement from Indiana University Health, Bernard’s employer, which re-asserted its position that the doctor was in compliance with privacy laws despite the medical board’s determination.

“We appreciate the Medical Licensing Board’s time dedicated to understanding the issues involving our colleague Dr. Caitlin Bernard. We are pleased she will continue to be a member of our medical team and provide compassionate care to her patients,” the statement said. “We do not agree with the Board’s decision regarding patient privacy regulations and stand by the HIPAA risk assessment. We believe Dr. Bernard was compliant with privacy laws.”

When news about the case first went public, conservative commentators suggested it could be “disinformation,” as details of the case were initially reported only by the IndyStar. Additional details couldn’t be immediately verified and sounded, in the view of those critics, too good to be true.

More Law&Crime coverage: Trump-appointed judge clearly not impressed with the way Indiana AG’s office sued TikTok

“No one reported this child rape case to law enforcement?” Jesse Watters asked.

In the days and weeks that followed, it became clear that there was, in fact, a suspect in the case — Gerson Fuentes — and that Bernard did report the rape.

At her hearing, which spanned 15 hours, Bernard reportedly testified that she revealed the victim’s age, gender, and the state she traveled from because she believed “it’s incredibly important for people to understand the real-world impacts of the laws of this country.”

Rokita reportedly did not attend Thursday’s hearing.

The victim was 6 weeks and 3 days pregnant when Bernard’s Ohio colleague told her about the case, according to the IndyStar’s story. That was three days after Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health, the landmark Supreme Court decision which overturned Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey. Ohio’s 6-week ban went into effect hours after the ruling, as was the case in numerous other states.

Have a tip we should know? [email protected]

Filed Under:

Follow Law&Crime:

Matt Naham is the Senior A.M. Editor of Law&Crime.