Thursday, the attorney for an Indiana doctor at the centre of a political maelstrom for discussing an unidentified 10-year-old child abuse victim who travelled from Ohio for an abortion stated that her client gave proper care and did not break any patient privacy regulations.
Attorney Kathleen DeLaney delivered the statement on behalf of Indianapolis obstetrician-gynecologist Caitlin Bernard on the same day Indiana’s Republican attorney general, Todd Rokita, announced an investigation into Bernard’s conduct. He did not make any particular accusations of malfeasance.
Wednesday in Columbus, Ohio, a 27-year-old man was charged with raping the child, confirming the existence of a case first questioned by several media outlets and Republican leaders. After Democratic President Joe Biden showed sympathy for the girl during the signing of an executive order to maintain some abortion access in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision striking down the constitutional protection for abortion, opposition mounted.
According to Bernard’s counsel, the physician “did all appropriate actions in accordance with the law and her medical and ethical training.”
DeLaney said in a statement, “She followed all pertinent protocols, procedures, and regulations in this instance, just as she does every day to provide the best possible care for her patients.” She has not broken any laws, including patient privacy rules, and her employer has not reprimanded her.
Bernard reported a medication abortion performed on a 10-year-old child on June 30 to the state health department on July 2, within the three-day window required by state law for girls younger than 16, according to a report obtained by The Indianapolis Star and WXIN-TV via public records requests. According to the report, the girl seeking an abortion had been abused.
DeLaney stated that legal action is being considered against “people who have slandered my client,” including Rokita, who stated he would investigate if Bernard broke child abuse notice or abortion reporting regulations. He added that his office will investigate if Bernard’s comments to the Star violated federal medical privacy rules. Neither the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services nor Indiana University Health, where Bernard is an obstetrician, will disclose whether any privacy law complaints have been filed against Bernard. According to the department’s website, the HIPAA Privacy Rule only safeguards the majority of “individually identifiable health information.”
The prosecutor for Indianapolis, where the abortion took place, stated that only his office had the right to seek criminal charges in such cases and that Bernard was “being intimidated and bullied.”
Democratic Marion County Prosecutor Ryan Mears stated, “I believe it’s quite dangerous when law enforcement officials attempt to commence criminal investigations based on internet rumours.”
Some Republicans, like Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost, who supported the harsh abortion restrictions established in Ohio after the Supreme Court verdict originally questioned the veracity of the tale given by Bernard to the newspaper. After telling Fox News on Monday that there was not a “whisper” of evidence supporting the existence of the case, Yost stated that his “heart hurts for the agony this young girl has through” and that his investigative unit is prepared to assist authorities in the case.
Yost drew severe outrage on Thursday for his public statements, especially his claim that medical exceptions to the Ohio “foetal heartbeat” abortion restriction would have permitted the girl to obtain her abortion in the state.
Evidently in reaction, he issued a “legal explanation” outlining the law’s medical exemptions. Abortion rights groups and attorneys stated that the law’s medical exclusions – for the life of the mother, grave bodily damage, and ectopic pregnancies – would not have shielded the Ohio physician who performed the abortion from prosecution.