By Steve Gorman
(Reuters) – Indiana’s attorney general said on Thursday he was investigating whether the Indiana physician who performed an abortion on a 10-year-old Ohio rape victim abided by state laws requiring doctors to report the termination of a pregnancy and suspected cases of child abuse.
In a statement posted online, along with a letter addressed to Indiana’s governor, state Attorney General Todd Rokita said Dr. Caitlin Bernard could face “criminal prosecution and licensing repercussions” if she failed to file the required reports on time.
Both Rokita and the governor, Eric Holcomb, are Republicans.
“We are investigating this situation and are waiting for the relevant documents to prove if the abortion and/or abuse were reported,” Rokita’s statement said. “The failure to do so constitutes a crime in Indiana.”
Rokita added that he would also examine whether the doctor had violated federal patient privacy laws.
But the warning appeared to be an empty threat after the Indianapolis Star newspaper reported it had obtained documents through a public records request showing Bernard had, indeed, met the disclosure requirements in a form she filed with the Indiana Department of Health and the Indiana Department of Child Services.
The newspaper also quoted Bernard’s attorney, Kathleen Delaney, as saying her client “took every appropriate and proper action in accordance with the law and both her medical and ethical training as a physician.”
“She followed all relevant policies, procedures, and regulations in this case, just as she does every day to provide the best possible care for her patients,” Delaney told the IndyStar in a statement.
“We are considering legal action against those who have smeared my client,” including Rokita, the attorney general, she said.
Delaney did not immediately respond to Reuters’ request for direct comment on the matter.
The Indianapolis Star broke news of the 10-year-old Ohio girl, who was raped and then traveled to Indiana to obtain an abortion because of an Ohio law banning the procedure at six weeks of pregnancy – before many women are even aware they are expecting – with no exceptions for rape or incest.
The Ohio girl was three days past Ohio’s six-week limit when she left her home state to terminate her pregnancy.
The Ohio ban took effect hours after the Supreme Court’s June 24 decision striking down the landmark 1973 Roe vs. Wade decision that established a constitutional right to abortion to end one’s pregnancy.
Abortion after six weeks remains legal in Indiana, though the Republican-controlled state legislature is expected to consider new restrictions on the procedure later this month.
Abortion rights activists, and even U.S. President Joe Biden, seized on the plight of the 10-year-old Ohio girl as a talking point to demonstrate the real-life consequences of Roe’s reversal.
Abortion foes sought to raise doubts about the veracity of the Indianapolis Star story, until Wednesday, when a man appeared in court in Franklin County, Ohio, for an arraignment on charges that he raped the girl.
A police investigator testified at the hearing that the defendant, Gerson Fuentes, 27, who was arrested on Tuesday, had confessed to raping the girl at least twice.
Following the announcement of charges against Fuentes, abortion opponents switched their focus from questioning the story itself to whether the physician had properly disclosed performing the abortion.
(Reporting by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; Additional reporting by Nate Raymond Boston; Editing by Michael Perry)