Indiana OB-GYN Properly Reported 10-Year-Old's Rape And Abortion, So We Guess That's Over, Right? RIGHT?
It has been a rough week for rightwingers who've been trying to downplay the significance of that awful story involving a 10-year-old Ohio girl who became pregnant after she was raped, and had to travel to Indiana to get an abortion because Ohio's abortion ban doesn't include an exception for rape or incest. The story made international headlines, because it clearly illustrated the cruelty of such near-total abortion bans: Yes, 10-year-old rape victims really will be expected to carry their pregnancies to term. These really are forced birth laws.
Rightwing politicians and media quickly set out to undermine the reporting because it made so clear that their cherished dream of banning abortion isn't really about "life," but about controlling women's lives. So they suggested maybe the story was fabricated, because wasn't it a little too perfect in suggesting abortion bans are bad? And hey, wasn't the source of the story, Dr. Caitlin Bernard, an obstetrician-gynecologist in Indianapolis, just a publicity-seeking abortion advocate? Maybe she made it all up to promote more abortions!
The effort to label the story a hoax fell apart Wednesday, when Ohio officials announce the alleged rapist had been charged, and had confessed to raping the girl at least two times.
But Why Didn't The Doctor Report The ... Oh, She Did?
Without pausing, the very people who'd been calling the story a hoax switched to taking credit for pressuring authorities to solve the criminal case. They were happy to point out that the accused rapist was an undocumented immigrant, and then went right back to attacking Dr. Bernard, because maybe she hadn't properly reported the case as required by law. On his Fox News show Wednesday, Jesse Watters demanded to know whether Dr. Bernard would be arrested for abetting the rapist by not reporting the abortion as resulting from a rape.
Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita, a Republican of course, went on Watters's show to announce he was investigating Dr. Bernard, calling her an "abortion activist acting as a doctor" and falsely insisting she already had a "history of failing to report" cases of child abuse, and by golly, "we're going to fight this to the end, including looking at her licensure. If she failed to report it in Indiana, it's a crime for – to not report, to intentionally not report."
If you read our headline, you know what happened to that claim: Yesterday, media outlets including Indianapolis TV station WXIN and the Washington Post (paywall-free gift link) obtained copies of the mandatory reporting forms that Dr. Bernard had filed shortly after the girl's abortion. She submitted them to the proper agencies, the reports indicated the pregnancy had been due to abuse, and Bernard even turned them in a day before the three-day deadline.
Looks like there may be very little for Rokita to investigate now. It'll be just like how, after some initial confusion, the facts about Benghazi came out pretty quickly and the story just blew over.
As the Post reports, Bernard's paperwork was all in order, as required by Indiana law. The "terminated pregnancy report" indicates that Dr. Bernard reported the abortion on July 2, two days after it was performed, and well within the three-day deadline for reporting an abortion for a patient under the age of 16. Also, the Post notes,
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. [...]
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.
You can view absurdly small images of the report in the WXIN story; they do not identify the patient.
OK, But What About Her 'History' ... Oh, That Accusation's Crap Too?
Another part of the accusation against Bernard has also largely been debunked; that's the claim that she had a "history" of failing to report terminations of pregnancy for underage patients. As we noted yesterday, Watters got that from a PJ Media story that repeated accusations made in a 2018 news release from Indiana Right To Life, listing Bernard among nine Indiana abortion providers who had allegedly not properly reported abortions in 48 cases in 2017 and 2018. That news release contained no specific accusations against Bernard, and didn't even link to the "consumer complaints" filed against the doctors.
You may be shocked to learn, dear readers, that the complaints appear to be a big pile of nothing, as the Post reports.
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.
While the Post wasn't able to get any response from the Indiana Department of Health or from Rokita's office, it does note that
A review of records from DocInfo — a physician licensure and disciplinary information data set 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.
When WXIN asked Rokita's office for comment, the station received only a terse statement saying "As we stated, we are gathering evidence from multiple sources and agencies related to these allegations. Our legal review of it remains open."
Well sure, but now local and national media have already done the heavy lifting. And given all the paperwork involved in medicine, maybe Rokita's office may yet find some form that wasn't filled out perfectly and build that up into a scandal of some kind.
So 10-Year-Olds CAN Access Abortion If They're Raped? ... Oh.
Also yesterday, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost repeated his dishonest assertion that the girl never had to travel to Indiana, because Ohio's abortion ban includes an exception allowing abortions to save the life of the pregnant patient — as long as it's a "medical emergency" and the patient is at risk of death or "serious risk of the substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function." We addressed this yesterday, noting that while continuing a pregnancy is very risky for a 10-year-old, the language of Ohio's law is prohibitively narrow, so the girl wouldn't actually qualify for the "life of the mother" exception unless she really were likely to die right away — not simply facing risk months down the road.
But what the hell, Yost doubled down and tweeted out an "explainer" of the exception yesterday. Notably, Yost's tweet did not claim the exemption would apply to a pregnant 10-year-old, which is what he'd claimed Monday on Fox News. Wasn't that clever of him?
Ohio doctors were quick to point out that the law very narrowly specifies that the threat to a patient's life has to be imminent, requiring immediate intervention, or that it involve a medically diagnosed condition that might cause death or "substantial and irreversible impairment" — and that neither of those situations applies to an otherwise healthy 10-year-old early on in a pregnancy. (The law also explicitly prohibits abortions for the sake of a patient's mental health.)
Attorney Ken White explained in a Twitter thread that nothing in the "explainer"
would make a doctor reasonably confident that performing an abortion on a raped 10-year-old, absent a specific and documented issue about the particular raped 10-year-old.
Could a physician conclude that any 10-year-old faces a substantial risk of substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function if they gestate and give birth? Maybe, so I hear from doctors. But is it clear that authorities will agree? Absolutely not. You’d be a fool, and commit malpractice, to tell a doctor they could rely on that argument. You’d be counting on the decency, fairness, and justice of the government.
And bear in mind this is the AG’s BEST STATEMENT to support the prior assertions that a 10-year-old could get an abortion in Ohio. If there were a clearer argument they’d make it.
The people telling you the 10-year-old could get an abortion in Ohio are ignorant or lying.
At Least Indiana Is Still ... Well, Shit, Just Get To The Bad News
For the moment, abortion in Indiana is still legal up to 22 weeks. But Jim Bopp, an Indiana lawyer and general counsel for National "Right to Life," wants everyone to know that under the model legislation he's drafted, that little girl would have to stay pregnant because God wants that. The Republican-dominated Indiana Lege is working on an abortion ban that hasn't yet been drafted, but which Politico reports is likely "to hew closely to Bopp’s model legislation." His bill has no rape or incest exception, but it does include one of those very narrow exceptions to protect a patient whose life is in immediate danger.
If the eventual Indiana bill does follow Bopp's model, then there's no question about the lack of options a pregnant 10-year-old would have, Bopp explained:
She would have had the baby, and as many women who have had babies as a result of rape, we would hope that she would understand the reason and ultimately the benefit of having the child.
Bopp didn't explain what the "benefit" of carrying a rapist's baby to term would be for a fifth-grader, but at least he's honest about the law's intent: You will have babies if you're raped, but maybe if you're on death's door, you might not have to carry the fetus until it can be delivered by caesarian section.
Bopp acknowledged some states might decide to include rape and incest exceptions, but he's not wild about it, since, "as heartwrenching as those circumstances are, we don’t think we should devalue the life of the baby because of the sins of the father.”
Good luck, Indiana.
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Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.