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US doctor reprimanded for talking about 10-year-old's abortion

By Agence France-Presse Published May 28, 2023 9:17 am

Trigger warning: This article contains mentions of rape.

A doctor who drew national attention for revealing she had performed an abortion on a 10-year-old rape victim was reprimanded and fined by a medical board for violating patient privacy laws.

The state of Indiana's Medical Licensing Board found gynecologist Caitlin Bernard had violated privacy laws when she spoke publicly about the case without the consent of the patient or her guardian. It voted on Thursday, May 25 to fine her $3,000 (P168,000) while allowing her to continue practicing medicine. 

At the nearly 13-hour hearing, the board dismissed two other allegations in the complaint filed by Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita, finding Bernard had not violated laws about reporting suspected child abuse and had not failed to stay informed of relevant reporting and privacy laws. 

Bernard spoke about treating the 10-year-old in an interview with the Indianapolis Star that was published days after the US Supreme Court ended the federal right to an abortion. 

At Thursday's hearing, Bernard called it "incredibly important" for the public to know the consequences of the changing legal landscape. 

"I think it's important for people to know what patients will have to go through because of the legislation that is being passed," she said. 

Bernard previously said her patient lived in the neighboring state of Ohio, where a trigger law came into effect after the Supreme Court overturned decades of constitutional protection for the right to end a pregnancy.

Ohio's near-total ban on abortions after six weeks made no exception for rape or incest.

The girl, who was past the six-week cut-off, traveled to Indiana, where the procedure remains legal until after 21 weeks.

The story of the child's abortion quickly went viral, reigniting political debate. 

Officials in the Republican-led state oppose abortion, and Rokita publicly criticized Bernard and accused her of failing to properly alert the authorities about a sex crime involving a minor.

The state medical board heard from several witnesses attesting that Bernard had followed protocols for reporting abuse and did not find her liable. 

Bernard's employer, Indiana University Health, said last year that it had determined the gynecologist was compliant with patient privacy laws. 

Last year, President Joe Biden spoke of the Ohio rape victim during a ceremony at which he signed reproductive rights protections into law and urged Congress to codify Roe v. Wade, the 1973 ruling that established the nationwide right to abortion. (AFP)