INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The attorney for an Indiana doctor who found herself at the center of a political firestorm after revealing the story of a 10-year-old girl who traveled from Ohio for an abortion said Thursday that her client provided the adequate treatment and did not violate any patient privacy laws in discussing the case.
Attorney Kathleen DeLaney issued the statement on behalf of Indianapolis OB/GYN Caitlin Bernard on the same day Indiana Republican Attorney General Todd Rokita said his office was investigating Bernard’s actions. He did not offer specific accusations of wrongdoing,
A A 27-year-old man was charged in Columbus, Ohio, on Wednesday with the rape of the girl, thus validating the existence of a case whose veracity aroused initial skepticism from some media outlets and Republican politicians. The rejection grew after Democratic President Joe Biden expressed empathy for the girl during the signing of an executive order last week intended to protect access to abortion in the wake of the US Supreme Court ruling that struck down constitutional protections for abortion.
Bernard’s attorney said the doctor “took all reasonable and appropriate steps consistent with the law and his medical and ethical training as a physician.”
“She followed all relevant policies, procedures and regulations in this case, just as she does every day to provide the best possible care for her patients,” DeLaney said in a statement. “She has not violated any laws, including patient privacy laws, and her employer has not disciplined her.”
Bernard reported a June 30 medical abortion for a 10-year-old patient to the state health department on July 2, within the three-day requirement in state law for a girl under 16, according to the report obtained. by The Indianapolis Star Y Indianapolis WXIN-TV under public records requests. The report stated that the girl seeking the abortion had been abused.
DeLaney said they are considering legal action against “those who defamed my client,” including Rokita.
Some Republicans who have backed strict abortion restrictions imposed in Ohio after the Supreme Court ruling, including Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost, initially questioned whether the story Bernard told the Indianapolis Star was true. After telling Fox News on Monday that there was “not a whisper” of any evidence to support the existence of the case, Yost said that “his heart aches for the pain suffered by this little boy” and that his investigative unit is ready to support the police in the case.
On Thursday, Yost faced intense backlash for her public statements, including asserting that medical exceptions in Ohio’s “fetal heartbeat” abortion ban would have allowed the girl to have an abortion in the state.
In response, he apparently posted a “legal explanation” detailing the law’s medical exceptions. Abortion rights advocates and attorneys said the law’s medical exceptions — for the life of the mother, serious risks of bodily injury and ectopic pregnancy — would not have protected an Ohio doctor who performed an abortion on the girl from be processed.
Rokita said his investigation would include whether Bernard followed Indiana state laws for notifying authorities of suspected child abuse and reporting an abortion of a girl under 16 to the state health department, and whether anything he said to the newspaper violated federal medical privacy laws.
The US Department of Health and Human Services did not say whether any privacy law complaints had been filed against Bernard, nor did Indiana University Health, where Bernard is an obstetrician. But the HIPAA privacy rule only protects most “individually identifiable health information,” the department’s website said.
The prosecutor in Indianapolis, where the abortion took place, said only his office has the authority to bring criminal charges in such situations and that Bernard was being “subjected to intimidation and harassment.”
“I think it’s really dangerous when people in law enforcement start trying to start a criminal investigation based on rumors on the internet,” Marion County Democratic District Attorney Ryan Mears said.
Bernard did not respond to emails and text messages seeking comment.
Carr Smyth reported from Columbus, Ohio.
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