A doctor who came to national attention in the US for revealing she performed an abortion on a 10-year-old rape victim has been reprimanded for violating patient privacy laws.
The Indiana Medical Licensing Board found a gynecologist Caitlin Bernard She violated privacy laws when she spoke publicly about the case without the consent of the patient or her guardian. She voted to fine her $3,000 and allow her to continue practicing medicine.
In its nearly 13-hour hearing Thursday, the board dismissed two other allegations in the complaint filed by Indiana Attorney General Todd Roketa, finding that Bernard did not violate laws related to reporting suspected child abuse and did not fail to stay informed about privacy and reporting laws. related to. .
The council did not issue any restrictions on her practicing medicine.
The case highlighted the sharp political divide over abortion in the United States, and the challenges healthcare providers face in the aftermath of last June. US Supreme Court decision To overturn the Roe v Wade precedent that protected abortion under federal law, and left Organization of states.
This decision put into effect a law in Ohio that prohibited abortion after six weeks of pregnancy, before many women knew they were pregnant, and made no exceptions to rape or incest.
Bernard has consistently defended her actions, telling the board Thursday that she followed Indiana’s reporting requirements and hospital policy by notifying hospital social workers about child abuse — and that the girl’s rape was already under investigation by Ohio authorities. Bernard’s lawyers also said she did not disclose any identifying information to the girl that would have violated privacy laws.
The Indianapolis Star cited the girl’s case in a July 1 article that sparked a national political uproar weeks after the Supreme Court ruling.
Some news outlets and Republican politicians have wrongly suggested that Bernard made up the story of the 10-year-old’s miscarriage, so that a 27-year-old man was charged with rape in Columbus, Ohio. During an event at the White House, President Joe Biden nearly vented his anger over the issue.
Medical Board President Dr. John Strobel said he believes Bernard went too far in telling a reporter about the girl’s pending miscarriage and that doctors need to be careful about monitoring patient privacy.
“I don’t think she expected this to go viral,” Strobel said of Bernard. “I don’t think she expected this kind of attention to be drawn to this patient. She did. It happened.”
Bernard’s attorney Alice Murical told the board Thursday that a doctor reports child abuse to patients several times a year and that a hospital social worker has confirmed with Ohio Child Protection staff that it is safe for the girl to leave with her mother.
“Dr. Bernard could not have anticipated the extraordinary and intense scrutiny this story would receive,” Murical said. “She didn’t expect the politicians to say she made the story up.”
Amid a wave of interest in the girl’s case last summer, Rokita, who is staunchly opposed to abortion rights, told Fox News that he would investigate Bernard’s actions and called her an “abortion activist who works as a doctor.”
Deputy Attorney General Corey Voight argued Thursday that the board needs to address what he called a “flagrant violation” of patient privacy and Barnard’s failure to notify the Indiana Department of Children and Police about the rape.
“There was no such case before the council,” said Voight. “No doctor has been so shameless in pursuit of his own agenda.”
Voight asked Bernard why she had discussed the Ohio girl’s case with a newspaper reporter and later in other news interviews instead of using a hypothetical situation.
Bernard described it as “extremely important” for the public to know the consequences of the changing legal landscape.
“I think it’s important for people to know what patients have to go through because of legislation that’s being passed, and presumption doesn’t make that effect,” she said.
During Thursday’s hearing, Rokita’s office continued to comment continuously on its official Twitter account, with one post saying, “When Bernard spoke about the top priority she places on legislation and speaking to the public, she did so at the expense of her patient. This shows where her priorities lie as an activist rather than a doctor.” “.
Bernard objected to Voight, saying that her choice to discuss the case publicly led to allegations of misconduct.
“I think if the Attorney General, Todd Roketa, had not chosen to make this his political stunt, we wouldn’t be here today,” Bernard said.
The Indiana board — which includes five doctors and one attorney who were appointed or reappointed by Republican Governor Eric Holcomb — had wide latitude under state law allowing it to issue letters of reprimand, suspend, revoke or probate a doctor’s license.
An Ohio law establishing a near-total ban on abortion was in effect for about two months, before it was shelved as a court case against it. The Republican-dominated Indiana legislature approved a statewide abortion ban weeks after the Ohio girl’s case drew attention, but abortion continued to be allowed in the state while it awaited the Indiana Supreme Court’s decision on the constitutionality of the ban.
Bernard tried unsuccessfully to block Rokita’s investigation last fall, though an Indianapolis judge wrote that Rokita committed “patently illegal violations” of state secrecy laws with his public comments about the doctor’s investigation prior to filing the medical licensing complaint against her.