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Bernard sanction stirs strong reactions

Caitlin Bernard, OB/GYN at IU Health, listens to the proceedings of the Medical Licensing Board of Indiana with her attorney, Alice Morical of Hoover Hull Turner. (Photo by Xain Ballenger of The Statehouse File)

By Marilyn Odendahl

The Indiana Citizen

May 26, 2023

Following the decision by the Medical Licensing Board of Indiana to sanction Caitlin Bernard, an OB/GYN at IU Health, organizations on opposing sides of the abortion debate issued statements which indicate how deep the divide is between them.

Right to Life Indianapolis and Indiana Right to Life both applauded Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita’s work to bring Bernard before the licensing board. However, Planned Parenthood Great Northwest, Hawai’i, Alaska, Indiana, Kentucky (PPGNHAIK) stood with Bernard for providing healthcare “when and where” patients need it.

On May 25, the medical licensing board found Bernard violated state and federal patient privacy laws when she spoke to a reporter about a 10-year-old Ohio girl who was raped and coming to Indiana in summer 2022 for an abortion. Rokita had sought Bernard’s license to practice medicine, claiming she violated patient privacy laws and laws requiring the immediate reporting of child abuse or neglect.

The MLB sanctioned Bernard with a letter of reprimand that will be kept on file with her medical license and fined her $3,000.

Marc Tuttle, president of Right to Life of Indianapolis, said his organization was grateful to Rokita because the Bernard case showed how “abortionists” operate.

“Dr. Bernard readily and willingly put her patient – who was not consulted or willing – into the public light for her own agenda,” Tuttle said in a statement. “She then deflected almost all accountability to her hospital employer, then to child protective services, then to law enforcement and then to the attorney general.”

When the victim was released from an Indianapolis hospital following the procedure, she went home to Ohio where she had to live with her rapist for five days before law enforcement identified him through DNA evidence and arrested him. The attorney general claimed that if Bernard had notified Indiana law enforcement, the girl might have been held in Indiana preventing her from having to return and stay with her abuser.

“It’s clear that hospitals in our community should be thinking intensely about the liability abortionists like Dr. Bernard create for them as well as their ability to protect victims from being placed back into homes and circumstances where they can be easy prey for sexual assault again,” Tuttle said.

Mike Ficher, CEO of Indiana Right to Life, alluded to the attorney general’s argument that Bernard talked about the 10-year-old patient to push her political views advocating for reproductive rights.

“We support this disciplinary action and our hearts continue to go out to the young girl who had already been through a horrific situation and then used as a public pawn,” Fichter said.

Rebecca Gibron, CEO of PPGNHAIK, characterized Bernard as risking her reputation and livelihood by promoting public health and serving her community.

“Dr. Bernard’s unwavering dedication to her patients and profession is laudable, but the lengths she was forced to go to continue to deliver safe and legal care while experience abusive and hostile condition is unacceptable,” Gibron said in a statement. “This could have all been avoided had Indiana AG Todd Rokita not made a mockery of his office – no provider should ever have to face politically motivated attacks for simply doing their job.”

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