INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — An Indiana doctor has dropped a lawsuit that aimed to halt the state's attorney general from investigating her after she provided an abortion to a 10-year-old Ohio child who was raped.
Lawyers for Dr. Caitlin Bernard of Indianapolis voluntarily nixed the lawsuit filed last month against Indiana Republican Attorney General Todd Rokita, according to court filings Thursday. The lawsuit argued Rokita’s office was wrongly justifying the investigation with “frivolous” consumer complaints submitted by people with no personal knowledge about the girl’s treatment.
Marion County Judge Heather Welch ruled that Rokita could continue investigating Bernard, a decision that came two days after the attorney general asked the state medical licensing board to discipline the doctor. Rokita alleged Bernard violated state law by not reporting the girl’s child abuse to Indiana authorities and broke patient privacy laws by telling an Indianapolis Star reporter about the girl’s treatment.
But Welch also ruled Dec. 2 that Rokita wrongly made public comments about investigating Bernard before he filed the complaint with the medical board. The judge wrote Rokita’s statements “are clearly unlawful breaches of the licensing investigations statute’s requirement that employees of the Attorney General’s Office maintain confidentiality over pending investigations until they are so referred to prosecution.”
After the newspaper cited that case in a July 1 article about patients heading to Indiana for abortions because of more restrictive laws elsewhere, Rokita told Fox News that he would investigate Bernard’s actions, calling her an “abortion activist acting as a doctor.”
Bernard's attorney, Kathleen DeLaney, has maintained the girl’s abuse was been reported to Ohio police and child protective services officials before the doctor ever saw the child. A 27-year-old man has been charged in Columbus, Ohio, with raping the girl. Public records obtained by the Associated Press also show Bernard met Indiana’s required three-day reporting period for an abortion performed on a patient younger than 16.
DeLaney also said in a statement Thursday that their focus has shifted to the complaint with the licensing board and they will continue “defending Dr. Bernard and her medical license against Rokita’s baseless attacks.”
“Rokita’s actions set a dangerous precedent imperiling the provision of lawful patient care and jeopardizing the confidentiality of patient medical records,” DeLaney said. “And Rokita continues to take these actions at taxpayer expense."
Kelly Stevenson, a spokesperson for Rokita's office, said Bernard withdrawing the case is “further confirmation that she was putting her political agenda above the privacy and safety of her 10 year old patient.”
"At the same time any of the court’s extraneous verbiage about the attorney general’s comments didn’t have legal value as the court itself acknowledged,” Stevenson said of Welch's opinion that Rokita violated confidentiality requirements.
The medical licensing board has the authority to suspend, revoke or place on probation a doctor’s license. the board said Dec. 2 it had received the complaint but that no hearing date had been set.
Arleigh Rodgers is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues. Follow Arleigh Rodgers on Twitter at https://twitter.com/arleighrodgers