Dr. Caitlin Bernard was found liable for violating her patient’s privacy after discussing the case in the wake of anti-abortion laws
The Indiana doctor who publicly discussed giving an abortion to a 10-year-old rape victim has been reprimanded and fined by her state’s medical board for violating her patient’s privacy.
Dr. Caitlin Bernard, an obstetrician-gynecologist from Indianapolis, made headlines last July when she spoke to The Cincinnati Enquirer about terminating the pregnancy of the young girl, who had traveled across state lines from Ohio following the Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.
Bernard was referred to the patient by a doctor in Ohio after that state outlawed abortion following six weeks of pregnancy, in response to the SCOTUS ruling. In Indiana, abortions are legal up to 22 weeks — and the girl was six weeks and three days pregnant.
Bernard’s revelation went viral and became a touchpoint in the national conversation about abortion rights. The attention to the case was cited as a contributing factor for the medical board’s decision to reprimand and fine the doctor for speaking up publicly about her patient.
“My reason to recommend a letter of reprimand would be that I don’t think she expected this to go viral,” the Indiana medical board’s president, Dr. John Strobel, said, according to CNN. “I don’t think she expected this attention to be brought to this patient.”
“But I do think that we as physicians need to be more careful in this situation,” Strobel said. “I think she’s a good doctor. … I think she’s safe to go back to practice.”
In addition to the letter of reprimand, Bernard will be fined $3,000.
Two other allegations in the complaint against Bernard — including one that she didn’t report suspected abuse — were dismissed, as Bernard did notify a hospital social worker about the suspected abuse, who confirmed Bernard’s account, according to CNN.
The social worker also testified that she contacted authorities in Ohio, who were already investigating the case. Since then, a 27-year-old man from Columbus has been charged with rape.
And while Bernard did speak about the case, she testified that she didn’t provide any identifying details about her patient.
“I did not release any protected health information. I complied with all patient confidentiality and HIPAA laws to the best of my knowledge,” Bernard testified on Thursday, according to CNN. “And, again, there was no information that I released that led to her being identified.
Bernard’s case isn’t the only high-profile one that’s gone viral in the wake of the SCOTUS ruling. In October, a Texas woman, Amanda Zurawski, suffered a slow miscarriage and became gravely ill with sepsis after doctors were unable to remove the non-viable fetus due to the state’s near-total abortion ban.
"We asked all of our doctors and our nurses, isn't there something you can do, and they said no," Zurawski said. "I couldn't make the decision for myself, we couldn't make the decision for our daughter, our doctors couldn't make the decision. They were just as furious as we were because their hands were tied. Had they acted, they would have been charged with a felony."
If you or someone you know has been a victim of sexual abuse, text "STRENGTH" to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 to be connected to a certified crisis counselor.
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