Washington – Dr. Caitlin Bernard, owho performed an abortion on a 10-year-old rape victim from Ohio, is suing Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita, alleging he relied on “baseless” consumer complaints to launch “excessive” investigations of doctors providing abortion care and issued subpoenas seeking the confidential medical records of their patients.
The lawsuit, filed by attorney Kathleen DeLaney on behalf of Bernard and her medical partner Dr. Amy Caldwell in Indiana Commercial Court in Marion County, claims Rokita opened investigations into seven consumer complaints filed against Bernard after she came under scrutiny for performing the drug-induced abortion on June 30, days after the Supreme Court.
Bernard was thrust into the national spotlight after she told the Indianapolis Star that an Ohio child abuse doctor had called her about the pregnant 10-year-old, who was seeking an out-of-state abortion because of Ohio’s near-total abortion ban. A man wasand was charged with rape two weeks later. Ohio’s abortion law, which bans the procedure once a fetal heartbeat is detected, usually around six weeks into pregnancy, after the Supreme Court issued its decision overturning Roe.
In onewith “CBS Evening News” anchor and managing editor Norah O’Donnell in July, Bernard could not confirm she provided the abortion because of privacy laws, but state records confirmed she did, and her lawsuit filed on Thursday says he is “providing abortion care for this patient.”
After opening investigations into the allegations, Bernard’s attorneys said Rokita and Scott Barnhart, director of the attorney general’s office’s Consumer Protection Division, issued “extremely extensive subpoenas” in August to a hospital system seeking the complete medical record. child’s. The subpoenas, they wrote, “serve no legitimate investigative purpose.”
“The misconduct of the attorney general and the director is preventing patients who need emergency abortions from seeking care,” they told the court. “It also threatens patients seeking legal abortions that their most personal and private medical records and health care decisions could be exposed as part of an unfair investigation.”
In addition to the Bernard investigations, the suit claims Rokita also launched an investigation into Caldwell’s actions in May based on a consumer complaint filed under a “termination of pregnancy report,” which is required for all abortions performed in the state. obtained through an open records request.
In late July, Rokita issued Caldwell a subpoena for all medical records related to the patient identified in the report and, in October, served a subpoena at a local health care clinic seeking medical records for the same patient. Neither Caldwell nor the patient was notified of the subpoena.
Bernard’s attorneys said they know of at least five subpoenas issued by Rokita’s office, but believe there could be more as they are sent to entities that may have medical records.
“The attorney general’s overreach in seeking these irrelevant medical records poses a significant threat to patient privacy and the confidentiality of medical records,” they said. “Because they don’t know about subpoenas, doctors like Drs. Bernard and Caldwell cannot take steps to ensure that their patients’ most confidential and personal information is protected.”
Bernard and Caldwell are asking the court to stop Rokita and his office from launching investigations without evaluating the merits of each consumer complaint and to stop the attorney general from issuing subpoenas in connection with an investigation based on a consumer complaint without specifying if it is valid. .
CBS News has reached out to Rokita’s office for comment on the suit.
After Bernard’s involvement became public over the summer, top Republicans accused her of lying about the incident, and Rokita vowed to investigate whether she violated the state law, which requires doctors to report abortions on patients under 16 within three days from the process. Referring to Bernard as an “abortion activist acting as a doctor,” Rokita said he had sought documents proving Bernard was in compliance with Indiana requirements and said her license could be affected if she didn’t.
Records obtained by CBS News, and cited in the lawsuit, show Bernard filed the required termination of pregnancy report on July 2, two days after she performed the abortion on the 10-year-old. The notices accompanying the report included information indicating that Bernard was cooperating with authorities investigating the girl’s rape, according to the court filing.
A 27-year-old man from Ohio was arrested andwith the rape in mid-July, and police said he confessed to the crime. A detective with Columbus, Ohio police testified that law enforcement learned of the girl’s pregnancy through a referral made by her mother to Franklin County Children’s Services on June 22 and that the abortion occurred in Indianapolis on June 30.
The lawsuit by Bernard and Caldwell accuses Rokita of initiating its investigations — and then issuing subpoenas — based on “frivolous” complaints, in violation of Indiana’s statutory framework for investigating consumer complaints against licensed medical providers.
Seven people filed consumer complaints against Bernard between July 8 and July 12, according to the lawsuit, days after she was revealed as the doctor who performed the abortion on the Ohio girl. Many were submitted by people not supposed to live in Indiana, and all said they saw news or social media posts about Bernard’s patient.
“The face of the consumer complaints has shown that the allegations are based on hearsay, hearsay or speculation,” Bernard’s lawyers wrote.
In a complaint, in a section seeking “incident details,” one person wrote that Bernard “kept the rape of a 10-year-old girl from authorities,” suggesting he did not comply with Indiana’s reporting requirement, according to a transcript cited in the lawsuit . . The person also included vague contact information for Bernard, listing her street address as “U of I” and phone number as a sequence of five.
Another complaint referenced Bernard’s television appearances with a link to an MSNBC interview and wrote that “as a citizen of Ohio I believe this misinformation (aka LIES) has tarnished my state’s image and is a malicious act intended to hurt people like me who hold a pro-life position.”
The unidentified complainant continued: “I have personally experienced hostility against me, specifically citing the interviews of Dr. Bernard and her claim that a 10-year-old girl from Ohio was forced to have an abortion at Bernard’s clinic in Indiana. If I continue to be harassed this way I will file a personal injury lawsuit against Dr. Bernard.”
Also included in the filing was a photo showing Internet search results about abortion, with red flags showing Bernard’s name, according to the lawsuit.
In a third complaint referenced in Bernard’s lawsuit, the submitter is asked “what was the first contact between you and the person/business” and, next to the “other” box, wrote “reported in the US media and the president of United States.”
“These consumer complaints were facially valid and no reasonable prosecutor could have determined they had merit,” Bernard’s attorneys wrote.
Additional complaints that led to investigations by the Indiana attorney general’s office included one based on “news reports” alleging that Bernard “failed to report child sexual abuse” and another that said, without naming Bernard, that ” the doctor did not report a 10-year-old rape brought to Indy by Ohio enemy [sic] abortion.” The complainant identified herself as the legal entity against whom the complaint was filed and provided a “317” phone number, according to the court filing.
“The attorney general and director opened multiple investigations into Dr. under Indiana law.
Indiana became thealmost total ban on abortion after the Supreme Court ruling ending the constitutional right to abortion. The state legislature in August approved the law, which includes exemptions in cases of rape, incest and to protect the life of the mother. The ban went into effect Sept. 15, but the Indiana Supreme Court blocked its enforcement after abortion providers challenged the measure in state court, arguing it violated the state constitution.