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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — A lawyer on Friday emailed the Indiana state's attorney general asking him to stop spreading false or misleading information about an Indianapolis doctor who performed an abortion in June on a 10-year-old rape victim from Ohio.
Attorney Kathleen DeLaney sent the “cease and desist” letter to Indiana Republican Attorney General Todd Rokita on behalf of obstetrician-gynecologist Caitlin Bernard, who performed a medical abortion on the girl.
The letter says Rokita's statements Wednesday on Fox News “cast Dr. Bernard in a false light and allege misconduct in her profession.” DeLaney said the doctor could file a defamation claim against Rokita if he does not comply.
Rokita told Fox that he would investigate whether Bernard violated child abuse notification or abortion reporting laws. He also said his office would look into whether anything Bernard said to the Indianapolis Star about the case violated federal medical privacy laws. He offered no specific allegations of wrongdoing.
Records obtained by The Associated Press and other local media show Bernard submitted the report July 2, which is within the state's required three-day reporting period for an abortion performed on a girl younger than 16.
“We are especially concerned that, given the controversial political context of the statements, such inflammatory accusations have the potential to incite harassment or violence from the public which could prevent Dr. Bernard, an Indiana licensed physician, from providing care to her patents safely,” the letter states.
A 27-year-old man has been charged in the girl's rape, confirming the case that was scrutinized by Republican politicians and some media outlets. Those reactions grew in intensity after Democratic President Joe Biden expressed sympathy for the girl when signing an executive order protecting some abortion access last week.
“Like any correspondence, it will be reviewed if and when it arrives. Regardless, no false or misleading statements have been made,” Kelly Stevenson, a spokesperson in Rokita’s office, said via email.
Bernard tweeted Friday that she hopes “to be able to share my story soon.”
“It has been a difficult week, but my colleagues and I will continue to provide healthcare ethically, lovingly, and bravely each and every day,” she wrote.
Dr. Diana Contreras, chief health care officer at Planned Parenthood Federation of America, issued a statement saying, “No medical provider should be harassed, intimidated, or criminalized for doing their job. It is unconscionable and unacceptable, and we condemn it in the strongest possible terms.”
This story was first published on July 15, 2022. It was updated on July 17, 2022, to correct comments made by Attorney General Todd Rokita about obstetrician-gynecologist Caitlin Bernard related to an abortion she performed on a 10-year-old child abuse victim.
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.