The Indiana doctor who made headlines last year for performing an abortion on a 10-year-old rape victim has been punished for telling reporters about it.
Caitlin Bernard carried out the procedure in June, less than a week after Roe v. Wade was overturned. The 10-year-old had traveled to Indiana from neighboring Ohio, where a trigger law banned abortion after six weeks (the trigger law has since been temporarily blocked while it is challenged in court). Bernard told the story to the Indianapolis Star.
And Indiana’s Republican Attorney General Todd Rokita has waged a campaign against Bernard ever since. He first accused her of making the story up, but when that claim was debunked, he accused her of failing to report the case to authorities—she had already reported it—and of violating privacy laws by revealing too much information about the patient.
The state medical licensing board ruled late Thursday that Bernard had violated ethical standards and privacy laws, even though her employer, Indiana University Health, had determined she was not at fault. The board decided to fine Bernard $3,000 but allowed her to continue practicing medicine, in part because she is one of the only ob-gyns in Indiana who accepts Medicaid.
“I think that it’s incredibly important for people to understand the real-world impacts of the laws of this country, about abortion or otherwise,” Bernard said during the 14-hour hearing. “I think it’s important for people to know what patients will have to go through because of legislation that is being passed.”
Rokita’s team argued that Bernard was acting on a political agenda, and she faced pointed questions throughout the hearing to try to determine a political motivation. At one point, she was asked if she had a tattoo of a coat hanger that said, “Trust women.” Her lawyers objected to the question as being irrelevant.
The 10-year-old’s story was one of the first about the effects of abortion bans to come out after Roe was rolled back. While abortion rights advocates had pushed it as proof of how important abortion access is, Republicans have remained firm in opposing the procedure. Some even doubled down and argued that it wouldn’t have been so bad to force that child to carry the pregnancy to term. In April, Ohio Republicans held hearings for several anti-abortion bills. When asked about the 10-year-old, anti-abortion activist Laura Strietmann said, “While a pregnancy might have been difficult on a 10-year-old body, a woman’s body is designed to carry life.” (A 10-year-old is a child, not a woman.)
The Indiana board has 90 days to finalize its decision, after which Bernard has a month to file an appeal. The licensing board’s seven members are appointed by the governor, and two of the current members reportedly donated a total of $25,000 to Rokita’s campaigns.