The state’s anti-abortion Republican attorney general is suing her employer after failing to sanction an Indiana doctor who offered emergency abortion treatment to a 10-year-old rape survivor.
His complaint also comes as he faces three ethics accusations from the state Supreme Court’s Disciplinary Commission, which determined that Todd Rokita’s remarks regarding Dr. Caitlin Bernard to right-wing media and elsewhere in the aftermath of the high-profile case violated attorney ethical regulations.
On May 25, Indiana’s Medical Licensing Board ruled that Dr Bernard breached privacy restrictions by speaking briefly to a reporter about the case, which gained international notice following the US Supreme Court’s decision to remove a constitutional right to abortion treatment.
Dr. Bernard’s patient came from Ohio, where abortion was virtually illegal beyond six weeks of pregnancy, with no exceptions for rape or incest. Despite the fact that she provided a generalized tale that did not identify anybody involved, the case garnered national attention, highlighting the far-reaching repercussions of broad abortion laws.
The doctor also faced criticism from Republican authorities who incorrectly claimed that the crime against the 10-year-old child was a fake, sought to view criminal and medical records, or accused her of neglecting to alert law enforcement about her patient’s condition.
During an appearance, Mr Rokita referred to her as “an abortion activist masquerading as a doctor.” Subpoenas were eventually sent to doctors and healthcare facilities in search of medical documents pertaining to the patient.
According to records and evidence, the case was reported to state agencies as required by law. Indiana University Health, her employer, also indicated that she did not break HIPAA standards.
Judge Rebukes Mr. Rokita for Breaching Confidentiality Regulations in Attempt to Revoke Doctor’s License
Last year, when Mr Rokita tried to withdraw the doctor’s license, a judge ruled that he violated his own office’s confidentially regulations by making charges of malfeasance. According to a judge, he caused “irreparable harm” to her reputation through “unlawful breaches” of confidentiality requirements after discussing his inquiry on national TV and in the press.
Mr. Rokita’s efforts to professionally sanction Dr. Bernard essentially failed in May, when the state licensing board ruled that she had not failed to report child abuse and was not unfit to practice medicine.
In July, the man who pled guilty to raping the 10-year-old child was sentenced to life in prison, with a minimum of 25 years before release.
Mr Rokita is now suing Indiana University Health in a 28-page federal lawsuit, claiming that instead of “protecting the patient, the hospital chose to protect the doctor, and itself.”
The hospital “has revealed a systemic flaw in its implementation and administration of HIPAA rules that affect the privacy of all its patients,” according to his complaint.
“We hold ourselves accountable every day for providing quality healthcare and protecting our patients’ privacy,” Indiana University Health said in a statement. “We remain disappointed that the Indiana Attorney General’s office continues to devote the state’s limited resources to this matter.” On the filing, we will react immediately to the AG’s office.”
Meanwhile, Mr Rokita is accused of violating three professional conduct rules by falsely referring to her as a “abortion activist acting as a doctor with a history of failure to report” and for “intentionally making public statements and/or directing others to issue public statements” about Dr Bernard’s investigation.
“Because our legal team had no involvement in the recent charges filed, we are unable to comment on them.” “We will monitor the Disciplinary Commission process and let the complaint speak for itself,” said Dr Bernard’s solicitor Kathleen DeLaney in a statement.
In a long rebuttal, Mr Rokita said the committee is made up of “radicals” who operate in a “environment that ‘cancels’ non-compliant citizens through intimidation as well as tactics that can weaponize our respected institutions.”
More than a dozen states have essentially barred abortion in most or all circumstances in the year of the momentous Supreme Court ruling in Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health Organization.
This November, Ohio voters will be asked to vote on an amendment that would establish a state constitutional right to abortion.
Following a year-long judicial struggle, Indiana’s newest anti-abortion law went into effect last month, effectively prohibiting most abortions at any moment during pregnancy unless the woman’s life or health is significantly endangered.
Abortion is legal before 22 weeks of pregnancy if a “lethal fetal anomaly” is discovered, or until 12 weeks of pregnancy if rape or incest is suspected.