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'I didn't take this to the media, the doctor did': AG Rokita vows to push investigation into Dr. Bernard

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Posted at 5:08 PM, Aug 03, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-03 19:03:25-04

GREENWOOD — Attorney General Todd Rokita vowed to keep pushing an investigation into an Indianapolis doctor who he says may have violated medical privacy laws when she told a reporter about a 10-year-old Ohio rape victim who traveled to Indiana to get an abortion.

“(There has been) A lot of mischaracterization in the media, there are a lot of angles to this and a lot of things we're looking at. It's not just as simple as filing a form. There are a lot of reporting requirements and a lot of privacy laws," Rokita said, speaking exclusively to WRTV while he attended Greenwood's National Night Out Tuesday.

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Attorney General Todd Rokita speaks during Greenwood's National Night Out celebration at the Greenwood Amphitheater on Aug. 2, 2022.

"It has always been and still remains a very high priority in my office to protect medical data and medical privacy. And so we are certainly looking at that in this case.”

Laws require Dr. Caitlin Bernard to notify agencies when an abortion is performed on a minor and to protect the privacy of patients, Rokita said.

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Dr. Caitlyn Bernard

On the heels of the Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, Bernard was thrust into a national spotlight after she told the Indianapolis Star she performed an abortion on the 10-year-old Ohio girl who traveled from Ohio to Indiana after most abortions became illegal in her home state.

Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost cast doubt on Bernard's account and questioned whether that 10-year-old rape victim had been "a fabrication." The doctor's claims were confirmed to be accurate on July 13 when the Columbus Dispatch reported that the 10-year-old's alleged rapist had been arrested and charged in a Franklin County Ohio court.

Rokita said his office is looking into whether Bernard's comments to the media might have rule afoul of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA), the federal law designed to protect the privacy of people’s health information.

“I'm not the one that brought this to the press, the doctor did," Rokita told WRTV. "The doctor took of a little girl's situation, her patient’s, and went to the IndyStar with it. And with that comes responsibilities and consequences."

Bernard's employer, IU Health, issued a statement saying Bernard followed all privacy laws in regards to the girl's case.

Kathleen DeLaney, Bernard's lawyer, fired back. DeLaney sent a "cease-and-desist" letter and filed a tort claim notice threatening to sue Rokita for defamation for his "false and misleading" statements.

"Dr. Bernard’s employer has already investigated and confirmed that she complied with all privacy laws," DeLaney said WEdnesday in an email to WRTV. "Dr. Bernard followed all the rules and regulations, period."

More | Attorney for Caitlin Bernard files tort claim notice against Indiana AG Todd Rokita | Indy abortion doctor sends 'cease & desist' to Indiana AG over 'inflammatory accusations' | Records show Indy doctor properly reported abortion for 10-year-old rape victim, AG still investigating | Man indicted in rape of Ohio girl, 10, who traveled to Indiana for abortion

Contact WRTV reporter Vic Ryckaert at victor.ryckaert@wrtv.com or on Twitter: @vicryc.