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Indiana AG Still 'Investigating' Doc Who Helped 10-Year-Old, God Knows Why
Oh right, we do know why.
Dr. Caitlin Bernard, the Indianapolis OB-GYN who helped a 10-year-old rape victim get an abortion after the girl was unable to in her home state of Ohio, received notice yesterday that she's under investigation by Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita, although what the hell he's investigating is anyone's guess. Bernard, who practices medicine at Indiana University Health and is an assistant professor in the medical school, has been the subject of rightwing media attacks ever since the story started getting national attention earlier this month, when she told the Indianapolis Star that a colleague in Ohio had referred a 10-year-old patient to her once Ohio's abortion ban went into effect. The Ohio law has no exceptions for rape or incest.
First the wingnuts accused Bernard of making the story up to make abortion bans seem bad. Then, when the arrest of a suspect in the rape was announced, they baselessly accused her of not properly reporting the abortion as required by Indiana law. Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita went on Fox News and vowed to investigate whether Dr. Bernard had properly reported the abortion to state medical and child welfare officials, while Fox host Jesse Watters accused her of helping the rapist by not immediately reporting the abortion. Watters also prominently featured Bernard's photo so antiabortion crazies could know exactly what she looked like.
The very next day, copies of the paperwork emerged, showing that Bernard had indeed reported the abortiono n two days after the procedure, well within the three days required by law. So if Bernard's paperwork was all in order, what the hell is Rokita supposedly investigating? We know, silly question: Rokita has an entire state law enforcement apparatus to deploy. He doesn't need a reason to use it.
Gosh, This Sounds Like A Witch Hunt Of Some Kind
Dr. Bernard's attorney, Kathleen DeLaney, told CNN that a notice from the AG's office arrived Tuesday, and that "We are in the process of reviewing this information. It’s unclear to us what is the nature of the investigation and what authority he has to investigate Dr. Bernard." As if keeping her name in the spotlight and gunsights of the antiabortion Right weren't plenty.
In the vaguest possible statement, Rokita's office explained nothing to CNN, saying, "As we stated, we are gathering evidence from multiple sources and agencies related to these allegations. Our legal review of it remains open." What allegations would those be? You know, the allegations of doing very bad things . On Fox News, Rokita had called Bernard an "abortion activist acting as a doctor," so clearly, there must be something to pin on her.
In addition to the quickly disproved speculation that Bernard hadn't properly reported the girl's abortion, Rokita also repeated a thinly sourced claim made by Watters that Bernard somehow had a "history" of failing to report abortions performed for underage patients. The accusation came from a 2018 news release from Indiana Right To Life that listed Bernard as one of nine Indiana abortion providers who'd allegedly failed to report abortions in 2017 and 2018, according to "consumer complaints." The news release offered no specific accusations against Bernard, but the Washington Post largely debunked the accusations earlier this month, noting that they were
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.
Maybe Rokita is trying to dredge that up again, although as the Post pointed out, there's no record of any disciplinary actions against Bernard or the other doctors named by Indiana Right to Life. If she has a clean record, that must surely be suspicious.
Is Being Targeted Fun? Not So Much.
In an interview with NPR's Sarah McCammon, Dr. Bernard said that having been the focus of all this rightwing attention has made her worry about her own safety and her family's safety, and that Rokita's continued suggestions that she's done something wrong amount to "harassment."
She also warned that if the Indiana Legislature passes its own abortion ban,
We're going to see women dying. We're going to see not only abortion care affected, but care for miscarriages, care for complications of pregnancy, infertility care, contraception. Really, the list is endless [...] We're going to see physicians harassed, persecuted. We're going to see patients being forced to continue unsafe pregnancies and die because of those pregnancies.
While she wouldn't discuss the case of the 10-year-old she helped, or any other specific patients, Bernard said, "Every OB-GYN can tell you the youngest patient that they have taken care of, whether that's providing abortion care or delivering their baby."
Brave Attorney General Vows Not To Let His Target Scare Him
Last week Delaney, Bernard's attorney, filed a "tort claim notice" against Rokita, which would be the first step in a possible defamation lawsuit against the attorney general and his office. The letter noted Bernard's clean disciplinary record with the state, and alleged that Rokita had "failed to ascertain whether the statements about Dr. Bernard's licensure were true or false before making them." Further, the letter said,
Statements that Dr. Bernard has a "history of failing to report," which Mr. Rokita indicated would constitute a crime, made in the absence of reasonable investigation, serve no legitimate law enforcement purpose. Given the current political atmosphere in the United States, Mr. Rokita's comments were intended to heighten public condemnation of Dr. Bernard, who legally provided legitimate medical care.
In a statement to NPR Tuesday, Rokita got real tough, criticizing Bernard again for bringing the 10-year-old's case to the attention of the media, vowing to continue the investigation "to the end," and stating that Rokita — again, the chief law enforcement officer for an entire state — wasn't about to be bullied by some evil abortion activist lady doctor, no SIR:
"The recent tort claim is not just an attempt to distract, but it's also an attempt to intimidate, obstruct, and stop my office's monumental progress to save lives," Rokita said. "It will take a lot more than that to intimidate us."
Bernard told NPR she hadn't yet decided whether to go ahead with a defamation suit, but added,
One of us is the state attorney general, and one of us is a physician — and it's very clear who is being intimidated in this situation. [...] I will continue to provide access to safe legal care to the best of my ability, and I can't say what he will do.
We suppose we should set the DVR to record "The Jesse Waters Target-a-Doctor Dance Party and Defamation Review" tonight to see what happens next in this horrible situation; we can only hope it ends with a nice fat defamation settlement going to Dr. Bernard.
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