Dr. Caitlin Bernard waits for a question from the Attorney General’s Office at a medical licensing hearing on May 25, 2023. (Whitney Downard/Indiana Capital Chronicle)
Advocates on both sides of Thursday’s contentious licensing hearing declared victory Friday after the regulatory panel sanctioned Dr. Caitlin Bernard for privacy violations related to a 10-year-old girl’s 2022 abortion but cleared her of other serious reporting charges.
The Indiana Medical Licensing Board heard 14 hours of testimony and argument before issuing a letter of reprimand and $3,000 fine.
The case was a flashpoint in the national debate over abortion bans last summer and helped lead to a rape exception being added to a new Indiana law.
“The Medical Licensing Board exonerated Dr. Bernard on Attorney General (Todd) Rokita’s most serious and completely unsubstantiated claims: (1) that Dr. Bernard allegedly failed to report child abuse, and (2) that Dr. Bernard is “unfit” to practice medicine,” said a statement from Alice Morical, the doctor’s attorney.
“The Board Chair even called Dr. Bernard a ‘good doctor.’ While we wholeheartedly disagree with the letter of reprimand on privacy issues, we are proud of Dr. Bernard for standing up for access to compassionate medical care and for her consummate professionalism during these unprecedented proceedings.”
A fundraising campaign supporting Bernard has raised nearly $600,000 since last year, with hundreds of new donations coming overnight after the board finding.
Both Bernard and Rokita have the option to appeal the case to a Marion County judge within 30 days.
Bernard, who works for IU Health, contended she did not give protected health information to an Indianapolis Star reporter, but the board found that the totality of the facts given allowed the girl to be identified. That data included the age, state of residence, approximate treatment date and medical condition.
IU Health conducted a risk assessment that found Bernard did not breach federal privacy law, also known as HIPAA.
Rokita’s office pushed hard for a finding that Bernard also failed to report child abuse, but the board unanimously disagreed.
His office, which prosecuted the case before the board, sought a suspension of Bernard’s license.
Bernard testified that she was in contact with Ohio police and child protection officials even before meeting the patient and also immediately notified the hospital’s social worker, per policy. She also looped Indiana Department of Child Services in within three days.
Indiana Right to Life President and Chief Executive Officer Mike Fichter also issued a statement Friday.
“We support this disciplinary action, and our hearts continue to go out to the young girl who had already been through a horrific situation, and then used as a publicity pawn.”
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