Editor’s Note: This story includes mention of sexual violence or assault. Resources are available here.
The Indiana Supreme Court ruled today it will reprimand Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita for committing “professional misconduct” for comments he made on Fox News about Indianapolis obstetrician-gynecologist Caitlin Bernard in July 2022.
Rokita referred to Bernard, who spoke to the IndyStar about performing an abortion on a 10-year-old rape victim from Ohio, as an “abortion activist acting as a doctor – with a history of failing to report.”
A child abuse doctor in Ohio referred the 10-year-old to Bernard after the state outlawed abortions after six weeks in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 2022 decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. The 10-year-old was six weeks and three days pregnant at the time.
According to the Indiana Supreme Court’s opinion, the Attorney General’s office then received seven complaints about Bernard’s termination of the 10-year-old's pregnancy. None of the complaints came from patients of Bernard.
Rokita asked the Indiana Medical Licensing Board to investigate Bernard’s handling of the 10-year-old’s information last year. They ruled in May 2023 she violated patient privacy laws and ordered her to pay a $3,000 fine. However, members of the American Medical Association criticized the decision during the board’s hearing shortly after.
Rokita has also filed a lawsuit against IU Health and IU Healthcare Associates, Bernard’s employer, for allegedly breaching the patient’s privacy and defending Bernard’s actions.
Rokita will pay $250 to the Clerk of the Indiana Supreme Court, in addition to the public reprimand. Justices Mark Massa, Geoffrey Slaughter and Derek Molter agreed with the ruling, while Chief Justice Lorretta Rush and Justice Christopher Goff dissented, calling the discipline “too lenient.”
Despite admitting that he engaged in “attorney misconduct”, according to the Supreme Court opinion, Rokita has continued to defend his statements.
“As I said at the time, my words are factual,” Rokita said in a statement Thursday. “The IU Health physician who caused the international media spectacle at the expense of her patient’s privacy is by her own actions an outspoken abortion activist.”
In Rokita’s statement, he said he signed an affidavit agreeing that he committed misconduct to save taxpayer money and prevent distraction by avoiding future legal proceedings.
In November 2022, Bernard sued Rokita for relying on “frivolous” complaints to obtain confidential medical information. She ultimately dropped the suit. After being fined by the Indiana Medical Licensing Board in May 2023 for violating patient privacy laws, Bernard opted not to appeal, but released a statement defending her actions.
“I am hopeful that my example shows how important it is for medical providers to be brave advocates and speak up when needed,” Bernard said in the statement.
A list of resources is available here if you or someone you know has experienced sexual harassment or abuse.