Dr. Caitlin Bernard might not have a household name, but the Indiana physician generated national headlines last summer when she came to the aid of a 10-year-old rape victim who needed an abortion. As NBC News reported, the political angle to the story reached an unfortunate end shortly before the holiday weekend.
Indiana’s medical board on Thursday determined that a doctor who spoke publicly about providing an abortion to a 10-year-old rape victim violated privacy rules, and imposed a fine. The Indiana Medical Licensing Board voted to fine Dr. Caitlin Bernard $3,000 and issue a letter of reprimand — but did not suspend her license.
It’s been nearly a year, so let’s take a moment to revisit our earlier coverage and review how we arrived at this point.
Last July, as the public learned of a 10-year-old Ohio girl who had been impregnated by a rapist, several prominent Republicans and their allies in conservative media had an unfortunate response to the story of a 10-year-old Ohio girl who had been impregnated by a rapist: The claims, they said, were not to be trusted.
They were wrong: The story was real, and a suspect in the rape was arrested.
The timing of the story helped raise the political stakes: Three days after Republican-appointed justices on the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, an obstetrician-gynecologist in Indiana received a call from a colleague in Ohio, where an abortion ban had just kicked in. The physician, Dr. Caitlin Bernard, was told that the patient was six weeks and three days pregnant, and she was asked if she could treat the child before Indiana’s Republican policymakers imposed an abortion ban of their own.
Bernard agreed to take on the patient, who traveled to the neighboring state for the care she could not legally receive in her home state of Ohio.
Soon after, Todd Rokita, Indiana’s Republican attorney general, expressed outrage — at the doctor who helped the rape victim. In fact, Rokita made some provocative claims about whether Bernard followed the proper reporting requirements.
Soon after, Rokita looked for new ways to punish the physician who treated the impregnated child and asked the state licensing board to impose a disciplinary action on Bernard because, as the Republican saw it, she violated patient privacy by speaking to a reporter about the case.
Because if there’s one thing the right cares about in abortion cases, it’s the right to privacy.
This proved successful, at least in part: The Indiana Medical Licensing Board could’ve suspended Bernard’s license. It didn’t, choosing instead to impose a modest fine and issue a letter of reprimand, but given the circumstances, the fact that the doctor was punished at all is tough to defend.
The board’s members were appointed by a Republican governor. According to The Indianapolis Star’s research, two of the panel’s seven members donated to Rokita’s campaign.
The New Republic’s report added, “The Indiana board has 90 days to finalize its decision, after which Bernard has a month to file an appeal.” Watch this space.