Caitlin Bernard, the Indiana OB-GYN who provided services to a 10-year-old Ohio girl who traveled out of state to receive an abortion, filed for damages against Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita (R) on Tuesday. Bernard claimed Rokita made “false and misleading” statements about her to both local and national media.
DeLaney & DeLaney, the law firm representing Bernard, said in a statement that a tort claim notice had been filed against Rokita, marking the first step in a potential defamation suit against him.
When news of Bernard’s actions rose to national attention, Rokita publicly said on platforms such as Fox News that he intended to investigate whether Bernard had filed the proper notices for abortions under Indiana state law.
“We’re gathering the evidence as we speak, and we’re going to fight this to the end, including looking at her licensure if she failed to report. And in Indiana it’s a crime … to intentionally not report,” Rokita said on Fox News.
During the same interview last week, Rokita claimed that Bernard had “a history of failing to report” abortions and called her an “abortion activist acting as a doctor.”
Bernard’s legal claim directly cited this Fox News interview as evidence of Rokita’s “false and misleading statements about alleged misconduct by Dr. Bernard in her profession” and argued that it amounted to defamation.
“Mr. Rokita’s false and misleading statements about alleged misconduct by Dr. Bernard in her profession constitute defamation per se,” Bernard’s claim stated. “To the extent that these statements exceed the general scope of Mr. Rokita’s authority as Indiana’s Attorney General, the statement forms the basis of an actionable defamation claim against Mr. Rokita individually.”
“Attorney General Rokita and the Office of Attorney General are leaders in the pro-life movement. His historic work has further distinguished Indiana as a protector of unborn life and women,” Kelly Stevenson, spokesperson for Rokita’s office, said when reached for comment.
“This is part of a divisive narrative and an attempt to distract from the important work of the office, including the duty to determine whether practitioners have violated the standards of practice in his or her profession, as well as federal and state laws. We will defend against baseless claims,” said Stevenson.
Shortly after Rokita made his public remarks about Bernard, her employer, Indiana University Health, released a statement saying it had found no evidence of the doctor failing to comply with privacy laws.
The Indianapolis Star, which published the story of Bernard providing the abortion for the 10-year-old Ohio girl, also reported that it had obtained the documents that Rokita said he had not yet been given, confirming that she had properly disclosed the abortion.
— Updated at 5:46 p.m.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism