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Dr. Bernard responds to Rokita seeking disciplinary action from Indiana Medical Licensing Board

Rokita's complaint alleges Dr. Caitlin Bernard violated state law by not reporting the girl's child abuse to Indiana authorities and violated patient privacy laws.

INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita is asking the state licensing board to issue "disciplinary sanctions" against Dr. Caitlin Bernard for the way she handled the case of a 10-year-old rape victim from Ohio. 

The doctor’s attorneys called the complaint a "a last-ditch effort to intimidate Bernard and other providers of abortion care."

"As the Office of the Attorney General, it is our duty to ensure that doctors meet the standard of care,” a statement from the AG's office said, in part. "In our opinion, Dr. Bernard fell short in this situation."

The announcement may be a sign the attorney general is done investigating the doctor. The move comes in the middle of a legal fight over the state’s investigation process.

The 29-page administrative complaint submitted to the Medical Licensing Board of Indiana alleges Bernard violated both federal and state law when she told a reporter she was consulted about providing abortion care to the young rape victim.

Click here to read the full complaint if you cannot view it below.

On July 1, IndyStar reported the girl's age, the state she was from and that she was six weeks and three days pregnant.

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) limits what information physicians can share about their patients. Jody Madeira, a law professor at Indiana University, said it's a complicated law, "But disclosing a patient's age without more or a state of residence without more is not a HIPAA violation."

The attorney general's office argues the girl was identified due to Bernard’s remarks. Several news outlets tried to verify the account after it garnered national attention. The girl's home was identified when the rape suspect was identified.

Rokita's office also says Bernard should have immediately reported the rape to Indiana law enforcement. The attorney general's office argues state law required her to do so, even though she was working with Ohio authorities. The doctor said she didn't believe a duplicate report to IMPD or Indiana DCS was required by law. In a hearing last week, Bernard said she did notify a social worker at her hospital before the child came to Indiana and filed the proper termination report, which was also submitted to DCS after she gave the girl abortion pills.

Despite cooperating with Ohio police, Rokita alleges Bernard put the girl in danger, arguing Indiana police may have detained the girl, preventing her from going back to Ohio and to "the same home as her alleged rapist."

If that would have happened is unclear. The identity of the rapist was unknown when Bernard provided the girl abortion care on June 30. The complaint states Ohio police only learned the name of the suspect days later on July 6.

In documents filed Thursday, Bernard's team called Rokita's administrative complaint filing "unlawful," and asked a judge to make his office withdraw it. Bernard claims Rokita's complaint shows he "will not follow Indiana law" unless a court orders him to do so.

Bernard's filing accuses the AG's office of trying to "circumvent this Court's authority and avoid its ruling on the pending Motion for Injunctive Relief."

Click here to read Bernard's filing if you cannot read it below.

A Marion County judge said last week she planned to decide on that request this week, which could impact Rokita's ability to refer consumer complaints to the Medical Licensing Board.

Included in the state's administrative complaint were six consumer complaints that the attorney general's office used to launch its investigation. That included a complaint from two Indiana residents and complaints from residents of Kentucky, Missouri and California.

Bernard is suing Rokita's office and accusing him of using "frivolous consumer complaints" from people without firsthand knowledge of a situation.

"I think that Attorney General Rokita wanted very much to have a filing against Dr. Bernard, however it could appear, before the judge ruled.” Madeira said. “To make it look like the investigation was complete. That basically the Attorney General's Division of Consumer Protection had found credible evidence and basically for this to be an answer to Dr. Bernard’s lawsuit."

This week, a Marion County judge is expected to respond to an emergency preliminary injunction request from Bernard. She was trying to stop the attorney general from using consumer complaints to obtain patient medical records.

Credit: AP/WTHR

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