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Caitlin Bernard, OB/GYN at IU Health, appears before the Medical Licensing Board of Indiana in May (Photo by Whitney Downard/Indiana Capital Chronicle)

By Whitney Downard

Indiana Capital Chronicle

August 30, 2023

Indianapolis doctor Caitlin Bernard will not be appealing a ruling from the medical licensing board earlier this year in which she was reprimanded for violating patient privacy laws, according to an announcement from her legal representation.

Attorney General Todd Rokita’s office also did not appeal so the matter is now closed. Each side had 30 days to decide.

The Indiana Medical Licensing Board found that Bernard broke both state and federal patient privacy laws when she publicly discussed the case of a 10-year-0ld rape victim from Ohio seeking an abortion in Indiana. The 14-hour hearing in May concluded with sanctions and a $3,000 fine.

“My goal has always been to protect and support my fellow medical providers and people who need medical care, including abortions. I want to make it clear that my case should not create a precedent that allows politicians to go after physicians who provide reproductive care or any other care that politicians disagree with. I am hopeful that my example shows how important it is for medical providers to be brave advocates and speak up when needed. At this point, I have no confidence that an appeal would change the outcome of this decision,” Bernard said in a statement.

10-year-old’s story goes viral

Bernard shared the story with a reporter last summer just before lawmakers convened in a special session to consider the near-total abortion ban and attracted national attention, with some political figures accusing her of lying to sway legislators.

Backlash even came from Attorney General Todd Rokita, who called Bernard an “abortion activist acting as a doctor.”

Advocates openly acknowledged that the personal account from Bernard’s patient pushed the General Assembly to include an exception for rape victims up to ten weeks in the near-total abortion ban — though the effectiveness of the carveout remains unknown.

“AG Rokita’s politically-motivated attempts to use my work as a provider to create a national platform for himself and his subsequent complaint to the Medical Licensing Board, is just a small part of the post-Roe landscape. My time and energy are much better spent providing healthcare to Hoosiers now living under the recent abortion ban in our state and in the broader fight for reproductive healthcare. I’m proud of the stand I took, and I’m grateful to have the support of my family, friends, and colleagues who have stuck by my side through it all,” Bernard concluded.

Rokita’s office accused Bernard of failing to report child abuse to Indiana authorities and said she was unfit to practice medicine in a complaint — both charges the licensing board rejected. Bernard still practices and remains in good standing.

The agency also had the option of appealing the ruling within 30 days.

“We are not appealing because we won the case, and it’s not surprising Dr. Bernard is not appealing. The Medical Licensing Board found Dr. Bernard liable for violating state and federal patient privacy laws on three separate counts, penalized her with the maximum fine possible under the law, and issued a formal letter of reprimand. My team fought for the 10-year-old girl’s privacy rights and continues to do the same for other Hoosier patients,” Rokita said Wednesday.

The licensing board’s decision attracted national criticism amid concerns that such a ruling would stifle doctors’ discussions. During deliberations, board members mused whether discussing cases with a colleague in the elevator might violate patient privacy.

Indiana Capital Chronicle is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Indiana Capital Chronicle maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Niki Kelly for questions: info@indianacapitalchronicle.com.

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