An Indianapolis doctor who performed an abortion on a 10-year-old rape victim from Ohio has taken the first step towards suing Indiana’s Attorney-General for defamation.
- Dr Caitlin Bernard’s lawyer has filed a “tort claim notice”, which starts a 90-day period for the state to settle
- The notice claimed statements made about alleged misconduct by Dr Bernard constitute defamation
- A spokesperson for Attorney-General Todd Rokita says the claim is baseless
Dr Caitlin Bernard — an Indianapolis obstetrician-gynecologist who gave the girl a medication-induced abortion on June 30 — filed a tort claim notice over what she says are false statements that Indiana’s Attorney-General, Todd Rokita, made about her and her work.
Dr Bernard received widespread attention after she gave an interview to the Indianapolis Star about the child, who travelled to Indiana from Ohio for the abortion.
A so-called foetal heartbeat law took effect in Ohio last month after the Supreme Court overturned its 1973 Roe v Wade decision.
A 27-year-old man was charged last week in Columbus, Ohio, with raping the girl, confirming the existence of a case that was initially met with skepticism by some news outlets and Republican politicians.
Dr Bernard’s lawyer, Kathleen DeLaney, filed the “tort claim notice” against the Attorney-General just days after Ms DeLaney sent a cease and desist letter.
The claim starts a 90-day period for the state to settle. If it’s not settled, Dr Bernard can file a lawsuit.
While the claim did not say how much money Dr Bernard is seeking, it noted that “the harm is ongoing”.
“Mr Rokita’s false and misleading statements about alleged misconduct by Dr Bernard in her profession constitute defamation,” the claim reads. “The statements have been, and continue to be, published by or on behalf of Mr Rokita and the Office of the Attorney-General.”
After news of the 10-year-old’s abortion broke, Mr Rokita told Fox News that he would investigate whether Dr Bernard violated child abuse notification or abortion reporting laws.
He also said his office would look into whether anything Dr Bernard said to the Indianapolis Star about the girl’s case violated federal medical privacy laws.
Mr Rokita offered no specific allegations of wrongdoing.
Records obtained by The Associated Press and local news outlets show that Dr Bernard submitted her report about the girl’s abortion on July 2, which is within Indiana’s required three-day reporting period for an abortion performed on a girl younger than 16.
A spokesperson for Mr Rokita said Dr Bernard’s claim was “baseless” and attempted to “distract from the important work of the office”.
The Indiana Democratic Party criticised Mr Rokita for the impact the lawsuit would have on taxpayers.