St. Louis, Mo., Dec 9, 2022 / 10:32 am (CNA).
An Indiana abortion doctor, Caitlin Bernard, has voluntarily withdrawn her lawsuit against state attorney general Todd Rokita, whose office is investigating her after she publicly disclosed performing an abortion last summer on a 10-year-old Ohio child who was raped.
Bernard in June performed an abortion on the girl, who traveled from Ohio to Indiana. Already known for her pro-abortion activism in Indiana, Bernard drew worldwide media attention to herself when she disclosed to the Indianapolis Star details about the abortion, though she did not name the patient. Ohio has a “heartbeat” abortion law in place, which took effect after the June 24 U.S. Supreme Court overturning of Roe v. Wade, whereas Indiana at the time allowed abortions until 22 weeks’ gestation.
In late November, Rokita asked the state’s medical licensing board to discipline Bernard, contending that she “violated the law, her patient’s trust, and the standards for the medical profession when she disclosed her patient’s abuse, medical issues, and medical treatment” to a reporter.
For her part, Bernard had sued in November to stop Rokita from issuing subpoenas over patients’ medical records, IndyStar reported, with her attorneys arguing that the “consumer complaints” Rokita used as a pretext to investigate Bernard came from people who had never interacted with the doctor.
On Dec. 2, Marion County Judge Heather Welch ruled that Rokita could continue investigating Bernard. However, the judge also said that Rokita unlawfully made public comments about investigating Bernard before he filed the complaint with the medical board, the Associated Press reported.
Following the judge’s ruling, Bernard withdrew her lawsuit. It is currently unclear what consequences Rokita may face for discussing Bernard’s case unlawfully, but his office expressed confidence that the judge’s comments on that point did not have “legal value.” Rokita’s office instead focused on Bernard, whose case is now before the state licensing board.
“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,” a spokesperson for Rokita’s office told the AP.
Indiana’s medical licensing board, which has the authority to suspend, revoke, or place on probation a doctor’s license, said Dec. 2 it had received the complaint but that no hearing date had been set, the AP reported.
In his Nov. 30 legal complaint, Rokita said Bernard “failed to immediately report” the abuse and rape of a child to Indiana authorities, as required under Indiana law. Bernard, through her attorneys, has stated that she reported the minor’s abortion to the relevant state agencies before the legally mandated deadline to do so, which in Indiana’s case is three days. Rokita contends, though, that a child abuse report should have been made to Indiana authorities within four hours so that the state could ensure the child was not being returned to an unsafe situation in Ohio.
Bernard has testified that she had confirmed that child abuse authorities in Ohio were actively investigating the case before the girl arrived in Indiana for the abortion, and her attorneys contend that that satisfies the requirements of Indiana law, Law&Crime reported.