Indiana attorney general sues hospital over doctor talking publicly about 10-year-old rape victim's abortion

20:33 18.09.2023

Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita is facing accusations of violating professional conduct rules in a complaint filed by the Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission. The complaint stems from statements Rokita made on Fox News in July 2022 regarding Dr. Caitlin Bernard, who performed an abortion on a 10-year-old rape victim from Ohio. The case has become a focal point in the debate over abortion access.

During an interview with Fox's Jesse Watters, Rokita referred to Bernard as an "abortion activist acting as a doctor - with a history of failure to report" child abuse cases. The commission asserts that these comments violated rules prohibiting lawyers from making public statements that could "materially prejudice" a case.

In response to the complaint, Rokita claimed that he was not required to maintain confidentiality in Bernard's case, arguing that she "violated her own duties of confidentiality by disclosing her patient's condition." He also questioned the power of an Indiana confidentiality law invoked by the commission, suggesting that it only applies to the attorney general's employees.

The controversy surrounding Bernard began when she provided an abortion for a 10-year-old rape victim from Ohio. The patient traveled to Indiana after her home state passed strict limits on abortion following the Supreme Court's overturning of Roe v. Wade. Bernard shared the story with the media, prompting Rokita to file a complaint with the medical licensing board, accusing her of violating patient privacy rights and failing to report child abuse.

The medical licensing board reprimanded Bernard in May for speaking publicly about the patient's condition but rejected Rokita's accusation that she violated a state law by not reporting the child abuse case. Bernard was fined $3,000 for the privacy violations but faced no further restrictions on her medical practice.

Rokita's lawsuit against Indiana University Health System alleges that the hospital violated patient privacy laws by allowing Bernard to share the details of the abortion procedure without authorization from the patient or her mother. The suit accuses the hospital of prioritizing the protection of the doctor over the patient.

Indiana University Health responded to the lawsuit, expressing disappointment that the attorney general's office was allocating resources to the matter. The hospital vowed to respond directly to the attorney general's office regarding the filing.

In addition to the lawsuit, Rokita previously faced a defamation suit filed by Bernard. The ongoing legal battle between the two parties highlights the contentious nature of the abortion debate in Indiana.

The Indiana Supreme Court's disciplinary complaint against Rokita adds another layer to the controversy. The court alleges that Rokita violated professional conduct rules by making public statements about Bernard during an ongoing investigation. Rokita's office had opened an investigation into complaints related to Bernard's performance of the abortion procedure.

Rokita responded to the disciplinary charges, defending his actions and stating that he is committed to protecting the privacy rights of vulnerable children. He is currently seeking reelection as attorney general of Indiana in 2024.

The next step in the process is for Rokita to submit a formal response to the disciplinary commission's complaint. Afterward, a trial-like proceeding may occur if both parties do not reach an agreement.

The Associated Press has contributed to this report.

/ Monday, September 18, 2023, 8:33 PM /

themes:  Ohio  Indiana

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