Indiana doctor fined for talking about abortion in Ohio

INDIANAPOLIS — An Indiana panel decided on Thursday night to reprimand an Indianapolis doctor after finding that she had violated patient privacy laws by speaking publicly about service delivery. abortion for a 10-year-old rape victim from neighboring Ohio.

The state’s Medical Licensing Board voted that Dr Caitlin Bernard failed to comply with privacy laws when she told a newspaper reporter about the girl’s treatment in a case that has come to the fore. national abortion debate days after the US Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last summer.

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However, the panel rejected an allegation from Indiana’s Republican attorney general that Bernard violated state law by failing to report child abuse to Indiana authorities. The board members decided to fine Bernard $3,000 for the violation, denying a request from the attorney general’s office to suspend Bernard’s license. The board issued no restrictions on her medical practice.

Bernard has repeatedly defended her actions, and she told the board on Thursday that she followed Indiana’s reporting requirements and hospital policy by notifying staff. hospital society about child abuse – and that the rape of the girl was investigated by Ohio authorities. Bernard’s attorneys also say that her failure to disclose any identifying information about the girl would violate privacy laws.

The Indianapolis Star cited the girl’s case in a July 1 article that caused a national political uproar in the weeks following the Roe v. Wade last summer put into effect an Ohio law banning abortions after six weeks of pregnancy. Some news outlets and Republican politicians suggested that Bernard fabricated the story falsely, until a 27-year-old man was accused of rape in Columbus, Ohio. During an event at the White House, President Joe Biden nearly shouted his indignation about the incident.

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Medical panel chairman Dr John Strobel said he believed Bernard went too far when he told a reporter the girl was awaiting an abortion and that doctors need to be careful about observing her privacy. patient.

Strobel said of Bernard: “I don’t think she expected this to go viral. I don’t think she expected this attention to be given to this patient. It did. It happened.”

Bernard’s attorney, Alice Morical, told the panel on Thursday that the doctor had reported child abuse to the patient several times a year, and a hospital social worker confirmed to staff members. protect Ohio children that the girl can safely leave with her mother.

“Doctor. Bernard could not have foreseen the scrutiny and atypical that this story received,” Morical said. “She didn’t expect politicians to say she made up stories.”

Amid a wave of attention in the girl’s case last summer, Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita, who is staunchly anti-abortion, told Fox News he would investigate Bernard’s actions and called her a “Abortion activists act as doctors”.

Deputy Attorney General Cory Voight argued Thursday that the panel needed to address what he called a “serious breach” of patient privacy and Bernard’s failure to notify the Indiana Department of Children’s Services and police. about the rape.

“There has never been a case like this before the board,” Voight said. “No doctor brazenly pursues their own agenda.”

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Voight asked Bernard why she discussed the Ohio girl’s case with the newspaper reporter and then in other media interviews instead of using a hypothetical scenario.

“I think it’s extremely important that people understand the actual impact of this country’s laws on abortion,” Bernard said. “I think it’s important that people know what the patient is going to go through because the law is being passed and a hypothesis isn’t making that impact.”

Panel member Dr Bharat Barai objected to the discovery that Bernard had broken privacy laws, saying she did not disclose directly protected identifying information such as the girl’s name or address. He disagreed with the majority of the board’s view that the combination of information about the rare case of a pregnant 10-year-old girl could expose her identity.

“We’re trying to assume that this could have been done and maybe someone discovered it,” Barai said.

During Thursday’s hearing that lasted about 13 hours, Rokita’s office continued to comment on its official Twitter account, with a post that read: “When Bernard talked about her top priority She set out for the law and spoke to the public, she did so at the expense of her own patients. This shows her priority as an activist over a doctor.”

Bernard objected to Voight saying her choice to discuss the case publicly led to allegations of misconduct.

“I think if the attorney general, Todd Rokita, hadn’t chosen to play this political drama, we wouldn’t be here today,” Bernard said.

Attorneys for the attorney general’s office repeatedly questioned whether Bernard’s employer, Indiana University Health, reported suspected child abuse to the state government where the abuse occurred in compliance with Indiana law. Are not. Officials from IU Health, the state’s largest hospital system, testified that the Indiana Department of Children’s Services has never objected to hospital policy.

The Indiana Board – with five physicians and one attorney present, who were appointed or reappointed by Republican Governor Eric Holcomb – has broad coverage under state law that allows them to issue control letters. Liability or suspension, revocation or probation of a physician’s license.

Ohio’s law that imposed a quasi ban on abortion was in effect for about two months, before being suspended due to a lawsuit against it taking place. Indiana’s Republican-dominated legislature passed a statewide ban on abortion weeks after the Ohio girl’s case gained attention, but abortions continue to be allowed in the state. state pending a decision by the Indiana Supreme Court on the constitutionality of the ban.

Bernard attempted to block Rokita’s investigation unsuccessfully last fall, though an Indianapolis judge wrote that Rokita had “clearly unlawfully violated” the state’s privacy law with comments his public comment on investigating the doctor before filing a medical licensing complaint against her.


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