Indiana AG comments on Caitlin Bernard prompt cease-and-desist letter

INDIANAPOLIS – An attorney for Dr. Caitlin Bernard, the doctor who provided an abortion to a 10-year-old rape victim from Ohio, sent a cease-and-desist letter Friday to Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita, citing comments he made about Bernard on Fox News Channel Wednesday night.

“Your false and defamatory statements to Fox News on July 13, 2022, cast Dr. Bernard in a false light and allege misconduct in her profession,” Kathleen DeLaney, the attorney representing Bernard, wrote in the letter to Rokita.

A spokesperson for Rokita’s office wrote in an email that the letter will be reviewed when it arrives but “no false or misleading statements have been made.”

Bernard is an Indianapolis obstetrician-gynecologist who provided care to a 10-year-old rape victim from Ohio. The story garnered international attention after IndyStar, part of the USA TODAY Network, wrote about the child.

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Rokita made an appearance on Fox News Channel where he said his office was looking into whether Bernard met reporting requirements.

“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 on the “Jesse Watters Primetime” show. “If she failed to report it in Indiana, it’s a crime for — to not report, to intentionally not report.”

The attorney general also claimed that Bernard has “a history of failing to report,” as a part of his roughly 2-minute appearance. Rokita did not offer any evidence to support his claims.

He released a statement Thursday reiterating his speculation about whether reporting requirements had been followed, and said he was “investigating this situation.” He also said there may be further action if a HIPAA violation occurred, meaning patient information was improperly shared. He did not offer evidence of that claim.

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The attorney’s letter states that Bernard complied with her reporting duties in the case. Through a public records request and subsequent documents, IndyStar found Bernard filed a form with the Indiana Department of Health and the Department of Child Services disclosing the child’s abortion and abuse. That form was released by the state to IndyStar late Thursday.

“We are especially concerned that, given the controversial political context of the statements, such inflammatory accusations have the potential to incite harassment or violence from the public which could prevent Dr. Bernard, an Indiana licensed physician, from providing care to her patients [sic] safely,” DeLaney wrote.

IU Health released a statement Friday stating Bernard, who is a physician there, did not violate any privacy laws under HIPAA.

“IU Health conducted an investigation with the full cooperation of Dr. Bernard and other IU Health team members. IU Health’s investigation found Dr. Bernard in compliance with privacy laws,” according to the statement.

Prosecutors in Ohio have charged Gerson Fuentes, 27, with rape after he allegedly told police he raped the 10-year-old girl on two occasions. He was arrested Tuesday.

Columbus police said they were made aware of the girl’s pregnancy June 22 after her mother reported it to Franklin County Children Services. She received the abortion in Indianapolis June 30.

IndyStar archives contributed to this report. Rachel Fradette is a general assignment reporter at IndyStar. Contact her at rfradette@indystar.com or follow her on Twitter at @Rachel_Fradette.