Disciplinary Hearing for Indiana Abortion Doctor Denounced as 'State-Sponsored Harassment'
"Attacks on reproductive freedom look like doctors being attacked and harassed for doing their job and providing essential abortion care," said one advocacy group.
Update (10:00 am ET, May 26):
The Indiana state medical licensing board voted to fine Dr. Caitlin Bernard $3,000 for speaking publicly about the abortion she provided to a 10-year-old patient in July 2022, and to serve her an official letter of reprimand. Board members rejected one count that she failed to follow patient privacy laws and another count that would have found her unfit to practice medicine in Indiana.
The Indianapolis Star reporter who Bernard spoke to after providing the care last year testified that she offered no unusual or private information about the patient.
Reproductive rights advocates on Thursday came to the defense of Dr. Caitlin Bernard, an obstetrician-gynecologist in Indianapolis who provided a 10-year-old girl with abortion care last year, as Bernard faced a disciplinary hearing before Indiana's state medical licensing board.
Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita, a Republican, launched an investigation into the doctor last July after she provided a legal abortion to the patient, who had been denied care in her home state of Ohio. Bernard learned of the rape victim from an Ohio doctor shortly after the state enacted a six-week abortion ban following the U.S. Supreme Court's overturning of Roe v. Wade last June.
She provided the child with an abortion and was soon targeted by Rokita, whose office told the medical licensing board that Bernard violated Indiana law by speaking to The Indianapolis Star about the patient's case and by not reporting her abuse to law enforcement and child protective authorities in Indiana.
A video of the hearing is available below:
\u201cThe Indiana Licensing Board meeting regarding Dr. Caitlin Bernard looks like it will start soon. Here's the livestream link for those interested in watching: https://t.co/xUPDdeNnH8\u201d— Kaitlin Lange (@Kaitlin Lange) 1685019334
Bernard's lawyer has said the doctor did follow reporting requirements by informing a social worker about the 10-year-old patient, and has noted that the rape was already being investigated in the girl's home state. Bernard also maintains that she did not release any identifying information about the child to the press.
"Physicians can talk to the media," Bernard's attorney, Alice Morical, told NBC News.
During the hearing, Bernard was asked by the state whether she is an advocate for reproductive rights and whether she has a tattoo of a coat hanger—a symbol of unsafe, illegal abortions. Cory Voight, director of complex litigation for Rokita's office, also accused her of "pushing a narrative" when she spoke to the Star about the effect Ohio's abortion ban had on her patient.
Bernard responded that the hearing was a "political stunt" by the attorney general.
\u201cVoight rephrases the question, then she responds: If attorney general Todd Rokita had not chosen to make this his political stunt, we wouldn\u2019t be here today.\u201d— Johnny Magdaleno (@Johnny Magdaleno) 1685042114
A number of doctors attended the hearing in support of Bernard.
The board is expected to vote on whether Bernard should face penalties, which could include a letter of reprimand or the suspension or revoking of her medical license.
Victoria Barrett, a writer based in Indiana, called the hearing "state-sponsored harassment."
\u201cThe state-sponsored harassment of Dr. Caitlin Bernard today is a fucking shame and an embarrassment and this misappropriation of my tax dollars is one reason I'm thinking of leaving the state.\u201d— Victoria Barrett (@Victoria Barrett) 1685037329
"Attacks on reproductive freedom look like doctors being attacked and harassed for doing their job and providing essential abortion care," said the advocacy group Vote Pro-Choice. "We stand with Dr. Caitlin Bernard and all the providers fighting for abortion care."