Friday, March 31

Doctor who treated 10-year-old rape victim sends Indiana AG cease and desist letter

The lawyer for a doctor who provided abortion services to a 10-year-old rape victim sent Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita a cease-and-desist letter Friday demanding he stop making “false or misleading statements” about the physician.

The letter comes after a Fox News interview Wednesday where Rokita said he was investigating Dr. Caitlin Bernard, who made international headlines earlier this month when she told The Indianapolis Star that she treated a 10-year-old rape victim who couldn’t get an abortion in her home state of Ohio because of a “fetal heartbeat” law. The state law, which was enacted after the US Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last month, outlaws abortions at around the sixth week of pregnancy. Bernard said the girl was just over six weeks pregnant.

Rokita said in the interview he was “gathering the evidence” against Bernard, “including looking at her licensure” and whether “she failed to report” the procedure in Indiana because “it’s a crime to not report, to intentionally not report.”

In her letter to Rokita, Bernard’s attorney, Kathleen DeLaney, said, “Please cease and desist from making false and misleading statements about alleged misconduct by Dr. Bernard in her profession, which constitute defamation per se. Moreover, to the extent that any statement you make exceeds the general scope of your authority as Indiana’s Attorney General, such a statement forms the basis of an actionable defamation claim.”

Rokita repeated many of his Fox News remarks in a statement through his office on Thursday, when he further questioned whether Bernard had violated health privacy laws by disclosing the case’s existence to the newspaper.

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In a statement earlier Friday, Bernard’s employer, Indiana University Health, said it had “conducted an investigation with the full cooperation of Dr. Bernard and other IU Health team members” and “found Dr. Bernard in compliance with privacy laws.”

NBC News obtained a Terminated Pregnancy Report from the Indiana Department of Health showing Bernard had reported the procedure within the required timeframe. A Washington Post review of state records also found no issues with Bernard’s medical license.

In Friday’s letter, DeLaney said: “Your false and defamatory statements to Fox News on July 13, 2022, cast Dr. Bernard in a false light and allege misconduct in her profession. Even after the release of the TPR(Terminated Pregnancy Report) through public record requests, confirming that Dr. Bernard fully complied with all applicable reporting laws, your subsequent statements to local and national news sources on July 14, 2022, further cast Dr. Bernard in a false light and mislead consumers and patients.”

DeLaney also expressed concern that “given the controversial political context of the statements, such inflammatory accusations have the potential to incite harassment or violence from the public.”

A spokesperson for AG’s office, Kelly Stevenson, said of the letter, “Like any correspondence, it will be reviewed if and when it arrives. Regardless, no false or misleading statements have been made.”

Sarah Fitzpatrick and Martin Scott contributed.

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