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Attorney for Caitlin Bernard files tort claim notice against Indiana AG Todd Rokita

Indiana Governor
Posted at 1:16 PM, Jul 19, 2022

INDIANAPOLIS — An attorney representing Dr. Caitlin Bernard, the Indianapolis doctor who performed an abortion for a 10-year-old rape victim from Ohio, has filed a tort claim notice against Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita.

Bernard's lawyer, Kathleen DeLaney of DeLaney & DeLaney LLC, confirmed to WRTV Tuesday the notice had been filed.

It's the first step toward a possible defamation lawsuit against Rokita.

It comes after Bernard's lawyer filed a 'cease and desist' letter against Rokita after told Fox News he would investigate whether she failed to follow proper reporting procedures.

Records showed Bernard properly filed the termination of pregnancy report after she performed the abortion.

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The girl traveled from Ohio to Indiana for an abortion after Ohio implemented the "Heartbeat bill," which does not allow abortions in the state after six weeks of pregnancy. In Ohio, a 10-year-old who becomes pregnant is, by definition, a rape victim, but the state's abortion law does not make exceptions for rape and incest.

The termination of pregnancy report, provided to WRTV by DeLaney, states the abortion was performed on June 30. It also shows the abortion was reported to the Indiana Department of Child Services and received by the Indiana Department of Health on July 2.

According to Indiana Code, doctors are required to submit the report within three days after the abortion if the patient is under 14.

Later, IU Health, where Bernard practices, issued a statement saying a review found Bernard is in compliance with patient privacy laws.

Rokita said his office would still investigate Bernard regardless.

RELATED | IDOH reports increase in terminated pregnancies in 2021, highest number since 2018

The notice reads in part:

"Mr. Rokita’s false and misleading statements about alleged misconduct by Dr. Bernard in her profession constitute defamation per se. The statements have been and continue to be published by or on behalf of Mr. Rokita and the Office of the Attorney General. To the extent that these statements exceed the general scope of Mr. Rokita’s authority as Indiana’s Attorney General, the statement forms the basis of an actionable defamation claim against Mr. Rokita individually.”

It continues, "Mr. Rokita’s statements that Dr. Bernard was an 'abortion activist acting as a doctor' with a 'history of failing to report' were false. Mr. Rokita either knew the statements were false or acted with reckless disregard of the truth or falsity of the statements. Mr. Rokita recklessly and/or negligently failed to ascertain whether the statements about Dr. Bernard’s licensure were true or false before making them.

"Statements that Dr. Bernard has a 'history of failing to report,' which Mr. Rokita indicated would constitute a crime, made in the absence of reasonable investigation, serve no legitimate law enforcement purpose. Given the current political atmosphere in the United States, Mr. Rokita’s comments were intended to heighten public condemnation of Dr. Bernard, who legally provided legitimate medical care."

The full document can be read here.

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Kelly Stevenson, a spokesperson for Rokita, provided the following statement to WRTV:

"Attorney General Rokita and the Office of Attorney General are leaders in the pro-life movement. His historic work has further distinguished Indiana as a protector of unborn life and women. This is part of a divisive narrative and an attempt to distract from the important work of the office, including the duty to determine whether practitioners have violated the standards of practice in his or her profession, as well as federal and state laws. We will defend against baseless claims."

WRTV Reporter Kaitlyn Kendall contributed to this report.