Indiana doctor sues attorney general in 10-year-old's abortion case

FILE PHOTO: Special session to debate banning abortion in Indianapolis

By Daniel Trotta

(Reuters) - An Indiana doctor who performed an abortion on a 10-year-old Ohio rape victim sued Indiana's attorney general on Thursday, demanding an end to investigations seeking medical records about patients and their abortions.

The suit filed by Dr. Caitlin Bernard alleges Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita has abused his authority to regulate licensed physicians by issuing multiple subpoenas based on frivolous complaints from third parties who had no interest in the case.

The suit stems from a rape case that made national headlines shortly after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the landmark Roe v. Wade decision guaranteeing abortion rights nationwide in June. An Ohio man has been indicted for raping the girl and is due to go on trial early next year.

The girl was referred to Bernard because the Supreme Court ruling triggered a strict Ohio law barring her from an in-state abortion.

After news reports of the matter, Rokita announced on Fox News and elsewhere he was investigating whether Bernard followed state law requiring doctors to report abortions.

Public records showed Bernard promptly reported the abortion as required.

The suit names as plaintiffs Bernard and her medical partner Dr. Amy Caldwell on behalf of them and their patients, while naming as defendants Rokita and Scott Barnhart, director of the attorney general's consumer protection division.

The suit said the defendants violated requirements that any investigations be based on merit, are narrowly focused and kept confidential.

"The Attorney General and the Director will continue to initiate sham investigations of Plaintiffs unless enjoined by the Court," said the lawsuit filed in Marion Superior Court.

Moreover, the suit said the subpoenas were issued based on complaints from people who had only heard of the case on the news and repeated the false claim that Bernard failed to submit a report.

A spokesperson for the attorney general's office said any specific response would be made in court filings, while asserting that officials were following legal obligations regarding consumer complaints.

"By statutory obligation, we investigate thousands of potential licensing, privacy, and other violations a year. A majority of the complaints we receive are, in fact, from nonpatients," Press Secretary Kelly Stevenson said in a statement, adding that investigations of violations are handled uniformly and narrowly focused.

Besides the case involving the 10-year-old girl, subpoenas were issued in a separate complaint involving Caldwell, Bernard's medical partner.

(Reporting by Daniel Trotta; Editing by Josie Kao)