Washington— Dr. Caitlin Bernard, the Indianapolis Obstetrician-Gynecologist who aborted a 10-year-old girl who was raped in Ohio, is suing Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita, alleging he relied on ‘baseless’ consumer complaints to launch investigations “overbroad” on doctors who provide abortion care, and issued subpoenas seeking their patients’ confidential medical records.
The court casefiled by attorney Kathleen DeLaney on behalf of Bernard and his medical partner, Dr. Amy Caldwell, in Indiana Commercial Court in Marion County, claims Rokita has opened investigations into seven consumer complaints filed against Bernard after she faced scrutiny for performing medical abortion on June 30, days after the Supreme Court inverted Roe v. Wade.
Bernard was thrust into the national spotlight after he told the Indianapolis Star that an Ohio pedophile doctor called her about the pregnant 10-year-old girl, who was seeking an out-of-state abortion due to Ohio’s near-total ban. A man was stopped and charged with rape two weeks later. Ohio’s abortion law, which prohibits the procedure once an embryonic heartbeat is detected, usually around six weeks pregnant, Has taken effect after the Supreme Court released its decision overturning Roe.
In a interview with “CBS Evening News” anchor and editor Norah O’Donnell in July, Bernard could not confirm that she performed the abortion due to privacy laws, but the records of the State confirmed that she had done so, and her complaint filed Thursday refers to her “providing abortion care to this patient.”
After opening investigations into the complaints, Bernard’s attorneys said Rokita and Scott Barnhart, director of the Attorney General’s Office’s Consumer Protection Division, in August issued “very broad subpoenas” to a hospital system requesting the complete medical file of the child. Subpoenas, they wrote, “serve no legitimate investigative purpose.”
“The inappropriate conduct of the attorney general and the director is deterring patients who need emergency abortions from seeking treatment,” they told the court. “It also threatens patients seeking legal abortions that their most personal and private medical records and health care decisions could be exposed in a baseless investigation.”
In addition to Bernard’s investigations, the lawsuit says Rokita also launched an investigation into Caldwell’s actions in May based on a consumer complaint filed based on a “pregnancy termination report,” required for all abortions performed in the state, which was obtained through a request to open records.
In late July, Rokita served Caldwell with a subpoena for all medical records relating to the patient identified in the report, and in October issued a subpoena to a local health care clinic seeking medical records for the same. patient. Neither Caldwell nor the patient were informed of the subpoena.
Bernard’s attorneys said they are aware of at least five subpoenas issued by Rokita’s office, but believe there may be more as they are sent to entities that may have medical records.
“The Attorney General’s overreach in searching for these irrelevant medical records poses a significant threat to patient privacy and the confidentiality of medical records,” they said. “Because they are not informed of subpoenas, physicians like Drs. Bernard and Caldwell cannot take steps to ensure that their patients’ most confidential and personal information is protected.”
Bernard and Caldwell ask the court to stop Rokita and his office from launching investigations without assessing the merits of each consumer complaint, and to stop the Attorney General from issuing subpoenas in an investigation based on a consumer complaint without determining whether it is founded.
Kelly Stevenson, a spokeswoman for Rokita, said the attorney general’s office investigates “thousands” of potential licensing, privacy and other violations each year, as required by US law. State.
“The majority of complaints we receive are actually from non-patients. All investigations resulting from potential violations are handled in a consistent and narrowly focused manner,” Stevenson said in a statement to CBS News. “We will discuss this particular matter in greater detail through the court documents we will file.”
After Bernard’s involvement became public knowledge over the summer, leading Republicans accused her of lying about the incident, and Rokita pledged to investigate whether she had violated the state law, which requires doctors to report abortions performed on patients under age 16 within three days of the procedure. Referring to Bernard as an “abortion activist acting as a doctor”, Rokita said he asked for documents proving that Bernard complied with Indiana’s requirements and said her license could be affected if she failed to do so.
Records obtained by CBS News and cited in the lawsuit show that Bernard submitted the required termination report on July 2, two days after performing the abortion on the 10-year-old girl. Communications that accompanied the report included information showing that Bernard was cooperating with authorities investigating the girl’s rape, according to the court filing.
A 27-year-old man from Ohio was arrested and accused with the rape in mid-July, and police said he confessed to the crime. A Columbus, Ohio, police detective said law enforcement learned of the girl’s pregnancy through a referral her mother made to Franklin County Children’s Services on June 22 and that the abortion was performed in Indianpolis on June 30.
Bernard and Caldwell’s lawsuit accuses Rokita of launching its investigations – and subsequently issuing subpoenas – based on ‘frivolous’ complaints, in violation of Indiana’s statutory framework for investigating complaints consumers against licensed medical providers.
Seven people filed consumer complaints against Bernard between July 8 and July 12, according to the lawsuit, days after she was revealed as the doctor who performed the abortion on the Ohio girl. Many were submitted by people who did not claim to live in Indiana, and all said they had seen news reports or social media posts about Bernard’s patient.
“The face of consumer complaints showed that the allegations were based on rumor, hearsay or speculation,” wrote lawyers for Bernard.
In one complaint, in a section asking for ‘incident details’, a person wrote that Bernard ‘knew of the rape of a 10-year-old child’, suggesting she had failed to comply with the requirement report from Indiana, according to a copy cited in the lawsuit. The person also included vague contact information for Bernard, listing his street address as “U of I” and his phone number as a series of fives.
Another complaint referenced Bernard’s television appearances with a link to an MSNBC interview and wrote that “as a citizen of Ohio, I feel that this misinformation (aka LIE) has harmed the image of my condition and is a malicious act intended to harm people like me who hold a pro-life position.”
The unidentified plaintiff continued, “I have personally been the subject of hostility against me by specifically mentioning Dr. Bernard’s interviews and his assertion that a 10-year-old girl from Ohio was forced to abortion at Bernard’s clinic in Indiana. If I continue to be harassed in this manner, I will file a personal injury lawsuit against Dr. Bernard.”
The filing also contained a photo showing online abortion search results, with red flags pointing to Bernard’s name, according to the lawsuit.
In a third complaint cited in Bernard’s lawsuit, the affiant is asked “what was the very first contact between you and the individual/company”, and, next to the checked “other” box, wrote ” reported in the American media and the President of the United States.”
“These consumer complaints were apparently well-founded and no reasonable prosecutor could determine that they were well-founded,” Bernard’s attorneys wrote.
Other complaints that were investigated by the Indiana Attorney General’s office included one that was based on “news articles” claiming that Bernard “did not report child sexual abuse.” , and another which declared, without naming Bernard, that “the doctor did not not report the rape of 10 years brought to indy from the enemy of Ohio [sic] abortion.” The plaintiff registered as the entity against whom the complaint was filed and provided a phone number of “317,” according to the court filing.
“The Attorney General and Director initiated multiple investigations into Dr. Bernard despite the obvious flaws in all of the consumer complaints and the fact that publicly available information indicated the complaints were frivolous,” Bernard’s attorneys argued, citing the termination report she filed, in accordance with Indiana law.
Indiana became the first state to pass a near-total ban on abortion after the Supreme Court ruling ending the constitutional right to abortion. The state legislature in August approved the law, which includes exceptions for rape, incest and to protect the life of the mother. The ban went into effect Sept. 15, but the Indiana Supreme Court blocked his app after abortion providers challenged the measure in state court, arguing that it violated the state constitution.