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Indiana doctor in abortion case has clean disciplinary history

Public records show a relatively clean record for an Indiana doctor who helped a 10-year-old rape victim have an abortion.

INDIANAPOLIS — Public records show a relatively clean record for an Indiana doctor who helped a 10-year-old rape victim have an abortion. The findings debunk allegations the doctor has a history of ignoring state law.

“Dr. (Caitlin) Bernard’s available history on the medical licensing board public disciplinary website is totally clear,” said Ashley Hadler, a medical malpractice attorney with Garau Germano, P.C. “No previous violations or disciplinary investigations or actions are posted there.”

Hadler helped 13 Investigates review Bernard's history through court, state and federal records.

13 Investigates did learn Bernard was named in a malpractice complaint filed in April 2022. The complaint named several medical professionals and Eskenazi Health. It was filed on behalf of a baby girl and her mother. The hospital and the medical staff are accused of being “careless and negligent.” The case was not related to an abortion procedure and is still going through the review process.

The doctor has faced backlash from many anti-abortion politicians after being named in an Indianapolis Star article where she reported helping a child rape victim from Ohio receive an abortion.

Scrutiny intensified Wednesday after Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita went on the Fox News show "Jesse Watters Primetime" to announce he was investigating the doctor.

RELATED: IU Health says Indianapolis doctor found compliant with privacy laws despite AG Rokita's claims

“Dr. Bernard seems to be criticized on both sides,” said Hadler. “First the story was criticized by some media outlets because it did not identify the patient and it could not be verified for that reason. And now that the perpetrator has been identified and the story has been substantiated, Dr. Bernard is being criticized for providing too much information about the patient.”

On Friday, Indiana University Health sent this statement,

"As part of IU Health’s commitment to patient privacy and compliance with privacy laws, IU Health routinely initiates reviews, including the matters in the news concerning Dr. Caitlin Bernard.  Pursuant to its policy, IU Health conducted an investigation with the full cooperation of Dr. Bernard and other IU Health team members. IU Health’s investigation found Dr. Bernard in compliance with privacy laws."

It came two days after Rokita announced during the cable news interview that he planned to review potential violations involving the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) as well as if Bernard fulfilled her duty to report a case of suspected child abuse.

RELATED: Attorney sends cease-and-desist letter to Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita

Hadler reviewed the Federal Office of Civil Rights database and found zero HIPAA violation claims involving Bernard. Publicly available claims involve cases naming 500 or more potential victims, claims with fewer are usually kept confidential.

"I think it's notable that to this day, the patient has not been identified. So as a survivor of child abuse and sexual abuse, her identity has remained protected, which would tend to show that there's not actually a HIPPA violation here."

Rokita also insinuated he would go after the doctor’s medical license if he found that she violated either the federal or state law.

“I think some of the comments could be interpreted as his office having more authority than it actually does in this particular situation,” Halder said.

While the attorney general can investigate those claims as part of a consumer complaint, he would not be able to impact the doctor’s medical license on his own. That power lies with the Medical Licensing Board of Indiana.

Again, the board’s portal has no history of it investigating or disciplining Bernard.

As for the claims of failing to report, a Termination of Abortion report released Thursday by the Indiana Department of Health shows the 10-year-old’s abortion was reported July 2, two days after the medical abortion took place in Indianapolis. The two-page report shows Bernard followed state law by reporting within three days of a procedure.

The top of the document states all reports involving patients younger than 16 should also be forwarded to the Department of Child Services, which would be inline with Indiana’s mandatory reporting law.

A law Rokita insinuated Bernard may have violated in this recent case and in the past. Ignoring that law is a misdemeanor offense. 13 Investigates checked state court records and found zero evidence of Bernard having a criminal history. Hadler found the same.

“I did not find any evidence that Dr. Bernard has ever been investigated for mandatory reporting violation,” she said. “And certainly, no evidence that she’s ever been prosecuted, charged or convicted of that.”

The doctor’s "history of failing to report" that Fox News and the AG discussed on Wednesday is reportedly linked to a 2018 press release from Indiana Right to Life, announcing a consumer complaint against Bernard and other doctors.    

13 Investigates sent a request to the attorney general’s office requesting the outcome of those complaints. Rokita was not in office at the time, but staff would still have access to those records and if a law was broken the attorney general could file an administrative complaint with the Medical Licensing Board for review. Staff forwarded some past administrative complaints involving other doctors. However, none were against Bernard.

Staff also sent the following statement from Rokita:

“As we stated, we are gathering evidence from multiple sources and agencies related to these allegations. Our legal review of it remains open.”

The attorney general’s office also pointed out Bernard is part of a federal lawsuit fighting an Indiana law limiting abortion access. However, taking the state to court is not illegal.

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