Indiana abortion laws: An Indiana doctor defends his actions in the treatment of a 10-year-old girl

In an episode that drew national attention in the weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, an Indianapolis doctor who provided abortion drugs to a 10-year-old rape victim from Ohio defended her actions before a judge Monday.

Dr. Caitlin Bernard testified on the second day of a court hearing to prevent Indiana’s Republican attorney general from obtaining patient medical records. The attorney general’s office says it is investigating whether Bernard properly reported child abuse and possibly violated patient privacy laws by discussing the girl’s case with a newspaper reporter.

The Marion County judge stated that she expected to rule on whether to issue a preliminary injunction against the attorney general’s office next week.

Bernard treated the girl in late June in Indianapolis because she was unable to have an abortion in neighboring Ohio. Because of the Supreme Court’s decision, Ohio’s “fetal heartbeat” law went into effect. Such laws prohibit abortions beginning when cardiac activity is detected in an embryo, which is usually around the sixth week of pregnancy.

Bernard and her attorneys claim that the girl’s abuse was reported to Ohio police and child protective services officials before the doctor ever saw her. During her nearly 90-minute testimony, Bernard stated that her lawsuit was intended to protect the girl’s privacy.

“There is no evidence of any crime being committed … so there should be no investigation necessary,” Bernard said.

Even if an investigation had already begun in Ohio, Deputy Attorney General Caryn Nieman-Szyper argued that state law still required Indiana police and child welfare officials to be notified immediately about the abuse so that they could assess the child’s safety.

Some news outlets and Republican politicians suggested Bernard’s account of the girl seeking an abortion was fabricated after he told The Indianapolis Star about her. While signing an executive order protecting some abortion access, President Joe Biden expressed empathy for the child.

In July, Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita told Fox News that he would investigate whether Bernard broke any child abuse notification or abortion reporting laws. Rokita has continued the investigation even after a 27-year-old man was charged with raping the girl in Columbus, Ohio, and public records show Bernard met Indiana’s required three-day reporting period for an abortion performed on a girl under the age of 16.

According to Nieman-Szyper, Bernard would not be under investigation if she had not revealed the girl’s rape to a reporter in order to advance her own abortion rights advocacy. According to Nieman-Szyper, Bernard failed to demonstrate that she had permission from the girl’s family to discuss her care in public, exposing the child to national attention.

Bernard said she hadn’t seen the girl yet when she told the reporter about her, but she didn’t reveal any identifying information about her.

“I did say that the patient had been raped,” Bernard admitted. “That is how a 10-year-old becomes pregnant.”

Bernard stated that she informed an Indiana University Health social worker that the girl would be having an abortion. She stated that those employees are in charge of ensuring that reports about children are made to the appropriate authorities.

Marion County Judge Heather Welch set a deadline of Wednesday for additional court filings.

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