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(INDIANAPOLIS) – The attorney for an Indiana doctor who performed an abortion on a 10-year-old girl from Ohio has sent a cease-and-desist letter to the Indiana attorney general regarding the “false” and “defamatory” statements made about the doctor.
The cease and desist letter, which was sent Friday and obtained by ABC News, is the latest development stemming from the troubling case, which has become a flashpoint in the national abortion debate after Roe. v. Wade.
The incident was first revealed in a July 1 report by the Indianapolis Star. Dr. Caitlin Bernard, an OB-GYN at Indiana University Health Medical Center in Indianapolis, told the publication that she had a 10-year-old patient from Ohio who, at more than 6 weeks pregnant, went to Indianapolis for an abortion after its so-called state heartbeat law banning most abortions went into effect after the Supreme Court struck down Roe.
The report captured national attention, with President Joe Biden referencing the IndyStar report during remarks made while signing an executive order on abortion access last week.
Meanwhile, some Republican leaders, including Ohio’s attorney general, doubted the report’s veracity. The Wall Street Journal editorial board said it was “too good to confirm.”
On Tuesday, Columbus police arrested a 27-year-old suspect who allegedly confessed to raping the 10-year-old victim, who police say traveled to Indianapolis to obtain a medical abortion on June 30. The suspect was sentenced to $2 million. liaison on Wednesday.
After the suspect was arraigned for felony rape, Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita, a Republican, said his office was investigating Bernard “to prove whether the abortion and/or abuse was reported.” , as required by Indiana law.
“Failure to do so is a felony in Indiana, and his behavior could also affect his license,” he said in a statement. “Furthermore, if a HIPAA violation occurs, it could also affect next steps. I will not back down in pursuit of the truth.”
A termination report filed with the Indiana Department of Health obtained by ABC News shows Bernard reported the abortion within three days of the procedure, as required by state law. Indiana University Health also released a statement on Friday that an investigation found Bernard complied with privacy laws.
The Columbus Police Division, which was alerted to the girl’s pregnancy on June 22, was already investigating the rape case at the time the abortion was performed.
Cease and desist from Bernard’s attorney, Kathleen DeLaney, cites “false and defamatory statements” Rokita made to Fox News on Wednesday that “cast Dr. Bernard in a false light and allege misconduct in his profession.” .
While appearing on Fox News on Wednesday night, Rokita claimed that Bernard was an “activist acting as a doctor with a history of not reporting.”
“So we’re gathering the information, we’re gathering the evidence as we speak and we’re going to fight to the end, including looking at her license, if she doesn’t show up,” he said. “And in Indiana, it’s a crime to intentionally fail to report.”
The cease and desist states that Rokita continued to make statements that “further misrepresent Dr. Bernard and mislead consumers and patients” even after the release of the termination report showing that she has complied with reporting laws.
“We are particularly 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. licensed in Indiana, to provide safe patient care,” DeLaney said.
“Further, to the extent that any statement you make exceeds the general scope of your authority as Indiana Attorney General, such statement forms the basis of a suitable defamation claim. “, she continued.
The cease and desist comes a day after DeLaney said he was considering legal action “against those who smeared my client, including Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita.”
In a statement to ABC News, a spokesperson for Rokita’s office said he would review the ceasefire “if and when it happens.”
“In any event, no false or misleading statements have been made,” the spokesperson said.
On Friday, Bernard’s colleague, Dr. Tracey Wilkinson, detailed in a guest essay in The New York Times how Bernard “became the target of a national smear campaign for reporting his 10-year-old patient.”
Bernard was supposed to co-write the essay, about the ‘chilling effect’ the Supreme Court ruling has had on medicine, until Rokita said her office would investigate her, according to Wilkinson, assistant professor of pediatrics at Indiana University School of Medicine.
“So I’m writing this essay myself, not only to draw attention to the chilling effect on medicine we’re seeing right now – but also because I’m terrified that I or any of our colleagues may soon face what Dr. Bernard is going through after providing care to our patients,” Wilkinson wrote.
After news of the arrest in the rape case, Bernard commented on Twitter on Wednesday that his “heart breaks for all survivors of sexual assault and abuse.”
“I’m so sad that our country is letting them down when they need us the most,” she said. “Doctors need to be able to give people the medical care they need, when and where they need it.”
ABC News’ Will McDuffie and Kevin Kraus contributed to this report.
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