Indiana’s attorney general, Todd Rokita, asked a state medical board on Wednesday to discipline the doctor who provided an abortion to a 10-year-old rape victim this summer.
Dr. Caitlin Bernard, an Indianapolis obstetrician-gynecologist, treated the girl, who had traveled from Ohio when the state enacted a ban on abortion after six weeks of pregnancy.
The case became a focus of the national abortion debate after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that established a constitutional right to abortion. It also put a focus on childhood pregnancies and the emerging legal risks to doctors who provide abortions. Mr. Rotika began an investigation into Dr. Bernard; she sued in an effort to stop him from obtaining medical records of her patients as part of that investigation.
Mr. Rokita’s office said in a statement on Wednesday that he was asking the board to discipline Dr. Bernard because she had “failed to uphold legal and Hippocratic responsibilities by exploiting a 10-year-old little girl’s traumatic medical story to the press for her own interests.”
The Indianapolis Star first reported the story of Dr. Bernard’s young patient. Dr. Bernard has refused to discuss the details of the girl’s case, and has not revealed her identity.
But Mr. Rokita, who opposes abortion, said that “simply concealing the patient’s name falls far short of her legal and ethical duties here.” He also said that Dr. Bernard had “failed to immediately report the abuse and rape of a child to Indiana authorities.”
Dr. Bernard’s lawyer, Kathleen DeLaney, said the attorney general’s step was “a last-ditch effort to intimidate Dr. Bernard and other providers of abortion care.”
In July, Mr. Rokita started an investigation into whether Dr. Bernard had properly reported the Ohio girl’s abortion to state officials in Indiana. Records show that Dr. Bernard had informed state authorities within the required reporting period.
Mr. Rokita did not say whether Wednesday’s action had brought an end to his investigation. But his petition to the medical board said that “following investigative efforts” he had obtained “sufficient evidence” to support his complaint.
Mr. Rokita deferred to the medical licensing board of Indiana to determine an appropriate disciplinary action for Dr. Bernard. Under the state statute cited by Mr. Rokita, the board could choose from a range of penalties, from suspending or permanently revoking Dr. Bernard’s license to sending a letter of reprimand.
As part of Mr. Rokita’s investigation into Dr. Bernard, he has tried to subpoena medical records of Dr. Bernard’s patients.
Dr. Bernard and her employer, Indiana University Health, sued Mr. Rokita to block the subpoena of confidential medical records.
The state attorney general said at the time that those suits were “designed to thwart our investigation into the physician’s behavior.”
In a hearing related to her lawsuit against the attorney general last week, Dr. Bernard testified that she had reported potential child abuse to her hospital’s social work department before the patient had traveled to Indianapolis.
Dr. Katie McHugh, an OB-GYN in Indiana, said Mr. Rokita’s investigation into Dr. Bernard was a “witch hunt” against physicians who provided abortion care.
“This doctor is being vilified for what has been internationally recognized as compassionate intervention,” said Dr. McHugh, who is a board member of Physicians for Reproductive Health, a group that favors abortion rights.