Breaking: Indiana Doctor Who Performed Abortion on 10-Year-Old Rape Victim Disciplined by Medical Board

Indiana's medical licensing board found Caitlin Bernard, an OBGYN who performed an abortion on a 10-year-old Ohio rape victim last year, broke patient privacy laws when she told a reporter about the child's procedure.

The board gave Bernard a letter of reprimand on Thursday and issued her a $3,000 fine for violating ethical standards and state laws by sharing information about the case with a reporter from the Indianapolis Star. While Bernard’s story was initially met with skepticism last year, a 27-year-old Ohio man was arrested for felony rape after confessing to the crime just two weeks after she shared details about the abortion. 

The perpetrator was 27-year-old Gerson Fuentes, a Guatemala national who was allegedly in the U.S. illegally when the rapes took place between January and May of 2022 when the girl was nine years old. The case was used as an example of the harms of strict abortion bans, as the story went that the girl was forced to travel across state lines after Ohio’s 6-week abortion law took effect. Ohio attorney general Dave Yost said at the time that the girl had the right to get an abortion in Ohio, as the law provides an exception when the mother's life is in danger.

Nonetheless, President Biden used the story to argue for the federal right to abortion. "She was forced to have to travel out of the state to Indiana to seek to terminate the pregnancy and maybe save her life," Biden said. "Ten years old — 10 years old! — raped, six weeks pregnant, already traumatized, was forced to travel to another state."

The medical board’s decision came after a 14-hour hearing on Thursday.

Andrew Mahler, an expert in privacy compliance who used to work for the federal Office of Civil Rights, testified on behalf of the state that he believed Bernard Violated the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) when she told a colleague details about the case at a rally and when she shared those same details with a reporter. Maher said the details Bernard shared could have identified the 10-year-old.

Lawyers for Bernard argued she complied with privacy laws by speaking about the patient’s case in a general and “deidentified” manner. They also successfully argued that she properly reported the incident to an Indiana University Health social worker.

Paige Joyner, a HIPAA expert who used to work in the Office of Civil Rights, testified on Bernard’s behalf that the information Bernard shared about the patient’s age, gender and state was “not protected health information.”

“There was nothing that was individually identifiable," Joyner argued.

Bernard testified that she felt an “obligation” to show Indiana residents the impacts of abortion bans.

"I don't think that anybody would have been looking into this story as any different than any other interview that I've ever given if it was not politicized the way that it was by public figures in our state and in Ohio," Bernard said.

Bernard sued state attorney general Todd Rokita last year, accusing his office of relying on "facially invalid consumer complaints to justify multiple, duplicative, and overbroad investigations into law-abiding physicians." In December, an Indiana judge denied her request to block Rokita’s efforts.

Rokita celebrated the board’s decision to discipline Bernard. "Like we have said for a year, this case was about patient privacy and the trust between the doctor and patient that was broken," he said.

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Indiana Doctor Who Performed Abortion on 10-Year-Old Rape Victim Disciplined by Medical Board

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