An Indiana OB-GYN who provided an abortion to a 10-year-old rape victim from Ohio is suing Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita, alleging that the Republican has been issuing subpoenas in a "fishing expedition" based on "meritless" and "frivolous" consumer complaints. Dr. Caitlin Bernard and her colleague Dr. Amy Caldwell filed a lawsuit in Indiana Commercial Courts seeking to block Rokita and his office from issuing subpoenas for confidential medical records without assessing the merit of a consumer complaint, reports CBS.
The lawsuit says his office "took the additional step of issuing sweepingly broad document subpoenas to a hospital system" for the child's medical file. The girl went to Indiana because she was more than six weeks pregnant and an abortion would have been illegal under Ohio's "heartbeat" law. According to the lawsuit, Rokita issued subpoenas for medical records based on complaints from people who were not Bernard's patients and had no connection to her work, Politico reports. Some of the complaints came from out of state, including one from an Ohio resident who said Bernard's discussion of the rape victim in the media was a "malicious act intended to harm people such as myself that hold a pro-life position."
Rokita "opened multiple investigations into Dr. Bernard despite the obvious deficiencies in all the consumer complaints," the lawsuit states. Rokita said in July that Bernard was being investigated for allegedly failing to report the abortion, though records show that she did so within the required three-day period. Kathleen Delaney, Bernard's attorney, tells NPR that she's "concerned that the real purpose behind these actions might very well be, in my opinion, an effort to intimidate physicians who provide abortion care and patients who seek that care."
She says it's hard to see a "legitimate purpose" for subpoenas based on consumer complaints "when there's been absolutely no allegation that the care that was provided by my clients was in any way substandard." Rokita's office said in a statement that it was following standard procedures and that investigations of potential violations are "handled in a uniform manner and narrowly focused." Delaney says Bernard, who was harassed and threatened after Rokita's July remarks, is also considering a defamation suit, but she feels it is more urgent to address the medical records issue. (Read more Todd Rokita stories.)