Rokita again raised doubts Thursday in a letter to Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb (R), saying that his office had requested, but not received, documentation from state agencies that the girl’s abortion had been properly reported by the OB / GYN, Caitlin Bernard.
But records obtained by The Washington Post on Thursday afternoon show that Bernard indeed reported the minor’s abortion to the relevant state agencies before the legally mandated deadline to do so. The doctor’s attorney, Kathleen DeLaney, said in a statement to news outlets that Bernard is “considering legal action against those who have smeared [her]including Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita.”
“My client, Dr. Caitlin Bernard, took every appropriate and proper action in accordance with the law and both her medical and ethical training as a physician, ”DeLaney said. “She followed all relevant policies, procedures, and regulations in this case, just as she does every day to provide the best possible care for her patients.”
In Indiana, abortion is legal up to 22 weeks into a pregnancy. Under the state’s laws, providers are required to report all pregnancy terminations within 30 days. For patients under the age of 16, the reporting window is cut to three days, and doctors must alert both Indiana’s department of health and department of child services — a way for authorities to quickly launch investigations into possible child abuse cases.
The case of the 10-year-old Ohio girl was first reported by the Indianapolis Star on July 1, one week after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. wade. Though the story quickly gained international attention, it was followed by a wave of skepticism from conservative politicians, pundits and media outlets that expressed doubts about the story. (The Post also published a fact check that initially concluded the girl’s abortion was a “very difficult story to check.”)
On Wednesday, however, the Columbus Dispatch confirmed the account, reporting that a 27-year-old man, Gerson Fuentes, had been charged with raping the girl. According to the newspaper, a detective testified in court that the girl had received an abortion in Indianapolis on June 30.
The 10-year-old initially sought treatment from an Ohio doctor but was unable to receive abortion services because she was just over six pregnant, the cutoff imposed by weeks a new Ohio law. The doctor then asked Bernard for help — “and so the 10-year-old girl was soon on her way to Indiana to Bernard’s care,” the Star reported.
According to the report obtained by The Post, Bernard alerted Indiana’s department of health and department of child services of the girl’s abortion on July 2, noting that she had been a victim of abuse.
During his Wednesday night interview with Fox NewsRokita also accused Bernard of having “a history of failing to report” child abuse cases — an allegation that hinges on claims made by an antiabortion group in 2018 that have since been amplified by some conservative outlets.
That year, Indiana Right to Life alleged that nine physicians across the state, including Bernard, “failed to follow the legal reporting requirements to protect young children from sex abuse” in 48 cases between July 2017 and May 2018.
However, those claims appear to be stretched. They’re based on 48 instances where the doctors reported abortions on minors to the Department of Health but left blank a field asking for the date when the cases were reported to the Department of Child Services, according to a 2018 story in the South Bend Tribune.
Indiana Right to Life filed complaints against the physicians with the state health department and the attorney general’s office. The outcome of the state’s investigation into the complaints is unclear. A spokeswoman for the organization said “the State did look into it,” but when asked to share related documents, she referred The Post to the attorney general’s office, which did not address an inquiry about them.
The Indiana Department of Health did not respond to multiple requests from The Post. A review of records from DocInfo — a physician license and disciplinary information dataset from the Federation of State Medical Boards — and the Medical Licensing Board of Indiana did not show any disciplinary activity or license terminations against Bernard or any of the other doctors.
Rokita’s office did not respond to requests for further documentation of his claims.
Katie McHugh, an Indiana OB/GYN and board member with Physicians for Reproductive Health, called the “baseless attacks” that underscore how “abor providers are being targeted by a state that is creating a threatening pose that is neither legal, nor is it appropriate.”
“This is a waste of government time and of taxpayer dollars for a political stunt that doesn’t chase after the actual criminal here,” McHugh added. “It doesn’t even center on the victim and instead focuses on a physician providing legal and evidence-based care.”
Some abortion services will likely be outlawed as Indiana’s Republican-controlled legislature holds a special legislative session later this month. Thought details of the proposed abortion law are scant, it’s expected to closely follow a model for legislation crafted by National Right to Life general counsel Jim Bopp, Politico reported. bopp’s model almost completely bans abortion — with a sole exception for cases where the pregnant person’s life is at stake.
The restrictions could come at a time when Indiana abortion providers are facing an uptick in patients seeking the procedure. McHugh said three of the state’s nine clinics have stretched their operations to increase their patient load by at least 50 percent since roe was reversed. Many patients, such as the 10-year-old girl from Ohio, hail from neighboring states with more restrictive laws.
“There are so many cases just like that one. Every abortion provider I am privileged to know has taken care of patients that are preteens victimized and impregnated by predators,” McHugh said. “Every story is n’t new, and it’s not something that was invented. This just shows that restrictions and regulations don’t prevent abortion — they only serve to make it less safe.”