The Indiana Medical Licensing Board within the midwestern United States has opened a disciplinary listening to in opposition to a physician after she spoke out about providing abortion care to a 10-year-old rape victim final June.
The physician, Caitlin Bernard, initially informed her story to The Indianapolis Star newspaper for instance the quick results of a Supreme Court docket choice to overturn the constitutional right to an abortion.
That story sparked a nationwide outcry, with abortion rights activists denouncing the hurdles the 10-year-old confronted and opponents blasting Bernard for her actions.
At Thursday’s listening to, the board heard a criticism from Indiana’s Lawyer Basic Todd Rokita, a Republican and opponent of abortion rights, accusing Bernard of violating each state and federal regulation.
The criticism seeks “applicable disciplinary motion” in opposition to Bernard. The board is empowered to droop and even revoke a physician’s license.
The legal professional common’s workplace has alleged that Bernard violated Indiana regulation, by not reporting the rape to authorities, in addition to federal requirements for affected person privateness.
Bernard “has repeatedly and often spoken to the press to perpetuate the protection of her affected person’s non-public life”, the criticism mentioned.
Whereas the affected person was by no means named in any of Bernard’s interviews, the criticism accuses Bernard of triggering “an intense media search” for details about the woman.
Bernard and her legal professionals, nonetheless, have denied any violation of the Well being Insurance coverage Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), the regulation that protects affected person privateness.
At Thursday’s listening to, Bernard defended her capability as a physician to talk broadly about medical points within the public curiosity.
“I believe that it’s extremely vital for individuals to grasp the real-world impacts of the legal guidelines of this nation about abortion,” Bernard mentioned. She added that hypotheticals not often have the identical impact on public consciousness.
In July of final yr, Bernard’s employer, Indiana College Well being, issued an announcement confirming the physician had complied with affected person privateness legal guidelines.
Bernard has additionally rejected accusations that she didn’t file the correct paperwork to doc the 10-year-old’s case.
She mentioned she adopted protocol for reporting baby abuse circumstances to hospital employees. Information shops just like the New York Occasions and Nationwide Public Radio have additionally reported that she complied with procedures for documenting abortions with the state.
On the time of the abortion on June 30, the rape was already being investigated by police within the baby’s house state of Ohio.
However with the US Supreme Court docket’s repeal last year of Roe v Wade — the 1973 choice that assured the constitutional proper to an abortion — Ohio was capable of impose an current six-week abortion ban that had been mired in authorized controversy since 2019.
That pressured the 10-year-old and her mom to hunt abortion care throughout state traces, in Indiana. On the time Bernard first heard in regards to the 10-year-old, she was six weeks and three days pregnant.
The kid finally acquired a medication abortion, and a 27-year-old suspect within the rape case was arrested in July.
Bernard’s public statements in regards to the case sparked a political firestorm, with many anti-abortion advocates — and even outstanding politicians like Ohio Consultant Jim Jordan — casting doubt on the story’s veracity.
President Joe Biden, a Democrat, even referenced the story throughout a information convention.
“A ten-year-old ought to be pressured to present delivery to a rapist’s baby?” Biden informed reporters, venting his outrage. “I can’t consider something extra excessive.”
Alice Morical, Bernard’s lawyer, mentioned that although her consumer had handled baby abuse circumstances earlier than, this story put her beneath the microscope like by no means earlier than.
“Dr Bernard couldn’t have anticipated the atypical and intense scrutiny that this story acquired,” Morical defined on Thursday. “She didn’t anticipate that politicians would say that she made the story up.”
Healthcare teams with ties to Bernard, like Planned Parenthood and Physicians for Reproductive Health, have additionally come to her defence, arguing that assaults on her professionalism are “politically motivated”.
However at Thursday’s listening to, Indiana’s Deputy Lawyer Basic Cory Voight argued that it was Bernard who was advancing her personal political agenda.
“There’s been no case like this earlier than the board,” Voight mentioned. “No doctor has been as brazen in pursuit of their very own agenda.”
Vought’s phrases echoed that of Lawyer Basic Rokita. As early as July of final yr, Rokita appeared on Fox Information to slam Bernard as an “abortion activist appearing as a physician”. He promised on the time to analyze Bernard and “battle this to the tip”.
Bernard sued to cease his investigation, which subpoenaed affected person medical information, however in December, Marion County Decide Heather Welch denied her request.
The choose, nonetheless, did additionally rule that Rokita had violated confidentiality legal guidelines himself in publicly discussing his investigation on cable TV information with out first submitting an official criticism.
Rokita’s media appearances, Welch mentioned, had been “clearly illegal breaches of the licensing investigations statute’s requirement that workers of the Lawyer Basic’s Workplace keep confidentiality over pending investigations till they’re so referred to prosecution”.