Jul 16, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Indiana doctor who treated 10-year-old rape victim facing intense backlash

Indiana Republican Attorney General Todd Rokita

Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call via Getty Images

The Indiana doctor who provided an abortion to a 10-year-old rape victim last month has endured vitriol and threats to her safety and career for her role in the case that drew the White House's attention.

Driving the news: Dr. Caitlin Bernard's lawyer sent a cease-and-desist letter Friday to Indiana's Republican Attorney General Todd Rokita over “false and misleading statements” he made about Bernard on Fox News this week, NBC News reports.

Why it matters: Bernard’s ordeal underscores the backlash abortion providers can face in the aftermath of the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade, even if they comply with laws in their respective states.

Catch up fast: Bernard was at the center of an Indianapolis Star story about the child, who could not receive the procedure in Ohio because of its approval of a so-called "fetal heartbeat" law, which limits access to abortion to the first six weeks of pregnancy.

  • Ohio's law does not include a carveout for rape survivors or victims of child abuse.
  • State and national Republicans and conservative editorial boards and broadcasters sharply criticized the Star’s reporting and sought to cast doubt on the story's veracity and Bernard's credibility.
  • This week, an Ohio man, Gerson Fuentes, was arrested and charged with raping the child. Fuentes confessed when police confronted him after a police report was filed about the incident. He is now facing life in prison.

Rokita said that day he was “gathering evidence” to determine whether Bernard “failed to report” performing the procedure, a requirement under Indiana law. “It’s a crime to not report, to intentionally not report,” he said, per NBC.

  • After his cable news appearance, Rokita’s office doubled down in a statement that questioned whether Bernard had violated privacy laws by sharing information about the case, NBC reported.

Between the lines: Indiana University Health, Bernard’s employer, said the doctor did not violate any laws and had cooperated with its review of the matter, per NBC.

  • Bernard’s lawyer, Kathleen DeLaney, told Rokita that his statements had cast her client in a false light, even as evidence had emerged that Bernard had not broken any laws, according to a letter dated Friday.
  • "We are especially concerned that, given the controversial political context of the statements, such inflammatory accusations have the potential to incite harassment or violence from the public which could prevent Dr. Bernard, an Indiana licensed physician, from providing care to her patients safely," the letter stated.

Go deeper: Roe v. Wade summary: Supreme Court strikes down Roe v. Wade

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