Indiana AG Todd Rokita still investigating Dr. Caitlin Bernard, attorney says

Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita speaks to about 100 supporters at the Indiana Statehouse who are against government mask mandates, Tuesday, Nov. 16, 2021, during Organization Day.
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Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita is still investigating Indianapolis obstetrician-gynecologist Dr. Caitlin Bernard two weeks after he went on Fox News and suggested without evidence that she failed to report a 10-year-old Ohio girl's abortion.

Bernard's attorney Kathleen DeLaney told IndyStar in a prepared statement that her office had received a notice from the attorney general's office Tuesday.

More:Rokita says he is looking into Indiana doctor who performed abortion for Ohio 10-year-old

"We are in the process of reviewing this information," DeLaney said in the statement. "It’s unclear to us what is the nature of the investigation and what authority he has to investigate Dr. Bernard.”

IndyStar requested a copy of the notice from DeLaney's office, but they did not provide one.

IndyStar also unsuccessfully requested a copy from Rokita's office. "Our office cannot comment on correspondence that may or may not have been sent," a spokesperson told IndyStar in response to the request, citing state code.

What Rokita said on Fox News

Bernard became a key figure in the national debate on abortion earlier this month after IndyStar reported she had provided the procedure to a 10-year-old rape victim from Ohio.

For subscribers:How Indiana doctor Caitlin Bernard became voice of abortion rights

The story was picked up by major news organizations in the aftermath of the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, which said abortion was not a constitutional right.

Her account was originally questioned by national media outlets, conservative politicians and the Ohio attorney general.

Rokita made a roughly 2-minute appearance on the Fox News show “Jesse Watters Primetime" on July 13 to discuss the case. He told Watters his office was looking into the doctor.

“We're gathering the evidence as we speak, and we're going to fight this to the end, including looking at her licensure,” Rokita said. “If she failed to report it in Indiana, it's a crime for — to not report, to intentionally not report.”

Rokita said Bernard had “a history of failing to report,” though he didn't provide examples. He later questioned whether Bernard had violated HIPAA, which is federal law that protects patient privacy.

The day of Rokita's interview, IndyStar and its sister paper the Columbus Dispatch reported that police in Ohio had arrested a suspect, Gerson Fuentes, who allegedly admitted to raping the girl on at least two occasions.

More:Ohio man charged in rape of 10-year-old that led to Indiana abortion

The day after Rokita's interview, the Indiana Department of Health provided IndyStar with a copy of the 10-year-old's terminated pregnancy report. It showed that Bernard reported the abortion before the state's reporting deadline, and that Bernard indicated the 10-year-old had suffered abuse.

Indiana University Health, Bernard's employer, also later said it does not believe Bernard violated privacy laws when she shared the anecdote with IndyStar.

In 2018 the anti-abortion organization Indiana Right to Life released a newsletter claiming Bernard was among nine abortion doctors in the state who had been accused of failing to report child abortions and sexual abuse.

More:Indianapolis doctor did not violate HIPAA laws in 10-year-old's abortion

When asked for copies of those allegations, a spokesperson for Indiana Right to Life told IndyStar to ask the attorney general's office. When IndyStar asked the attorney general's office, a spokesperson for the office said, "the outcome of the 2018 complaints is privileged."

Failure to report is a misdemeanor crime in Indiana. Bernard does not have a criminal record, according to state court data.

Cease-and-desist letter

DeLaney sent a cease-and-desist letter, and then a tort claim notice, to Rokita on behalf of Bernard after his remarks on Fox News.

"Mr. Rokita’s false and misleading statements about alleged misconduct by Dr. Bernard in her profession constitute defamation per se," the notice reads. "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."

More:Doctor who provided abortion for Ohio girl files claim for damages against Todd Rokita

In the tort claim notice, Bernard is requesting financial compensation in the form of damages for security costs, legal fees, reputational harm and emotional distress. The notice started a 90-day period for Rokita to investigate or settle the claim, after which Bernard can file a lawsuit.

A spokesperson for Rokita dismissed the claim as a baseless and divisive distraction.

IndyStar reporter Tony Cook contributed.

Call IndyStar courts reporter Johnny Magdaleno at 317-273-3188 or email him at Follow him on Twitter @IndyStarJohnny

This article originally appeared on Indianapolis Star: Indiana AG Rokita still investigating Dr. Caitlin Bernard, lawyer says