Dr. Caitlin Bernard, the obstetrician-gynecologist who provided a legal abortion to a 10-year-old rape victim in Indiana last month, is preparing to sue the state’s attorney general for defamation.
Bernard’s attorneys filed a claim notice Tuesday, saying Attorney General Todd Rokita owes her damages for security costs, legal fees, reputational harm and emotional distress after saying last week he plans to investigate her actions and falsely suggesting she failed to report the abortion to state authorities.
“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,” Bernard’s attorney Kathleen DeLaney said in the notice of claim.
Rokita first commented publicly on Bernard last week when he appeared on Fox News calling her an “abortion activist acting as a doctor with a history of failing to report,” referencing an Indiana law that requires physicians to notify the state within three days of performing an abortion on a patient under 16.
“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.
Those comments came around two weeks after the Indianapolis Star first reported on Bernard providing the abortion to the 10-year-old from Ohio, mentioning her experience in a story about patients traveling to Indiana for abortions from states that outlawed the procedure after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade last month.
Bernard took on the patient after a child abuse doctor in Ohio, where abortion had been banned, contacted her in Indiana asking if she could provide the procedure there. She did, and contrary to Rokita’s, she filed the proper notification with the state, media investigations confirmed. There is also no disciplinary history on Bernard’s record, her lawyer stated.
“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 claim notice stated.
Kelly Stevenson, a spokesperson from Rokita’s office, defended him in a statement to HuffPost on Tuesday, saying his work has “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,” Stevenson said of the impending lawsuit. “We will defend against baseless claims.”
One of Bernard’s colleagues spoke out in a New York Times column last week about the danger she’s been put in, saying local police have been informed about concerns for her physical safety.
The lawsuit targets Rokita as an individual, Bernard’s lawyer explained, because the statements he made about Bernard “exceed the general scope of Mr. Rokita’s authority as Indiana’s Attorney General.”
Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost also appeared on Fox News a few days before Rokita saying there was “not a whisper anywhere” of a 10-year-old being raped in Ohio. But two days later, several media reports confirmed a 27-year-old man was arrested and charged after police say he confessed to raping the child on at least two occasions.