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Caitlin Bernard, abortion doctor of 10-year-old rape victim, may sue Indiana AG Todd Rokita for defamation

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Lawyers for the Indianapolis doctor who helped a 10-year-old rape victim in Ohio get an abortion took the first legal step on Tuesday in a potential libel lawsuit against Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita (R listen)) for his comments in a story that received international attention.

Kathleen DeLaney filed a notice of tort action against Rokita on behalf of her client, Caitlin Bernard, for “false and misleading statements” about the obstetrician/gynecologist in the days after she explained how she had helped the child, who had traveled to Indiana for an abortion. .

“Mr. Rokita’s false and misleading statements regarding Dr. Bernard’s alleged misconduct in his profession constitute defamation in itself. Statements have been and continue to be released by or on behalf of Mr. Rokita and the Attorney General’s Office,” the notice reads. “To the extent that these statements exceed the general scope of Mr. Rokita’s authority as Indiana Attorney General, the statement forms the basis of a libel action against Mr. Rokita individually.”

Even after Gerson Fuentes was charged last week with rape in the case, Rokita asked Bernard if she had reported the proceedings to state officials, as required by law. Records obtained by The Washington Post show that Bernard reported the girl’s abortion to relevant state agencies before the legally mandated deadline for doing so.

A spokesperson for the attorney general’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Tuesday.

Bernard is seeking unspecified damages to help cover security costs, legal fees, reputational damage and emotional distress, according to the notice. If Rokita does not investigate or settle the claim within the next 90 days, then Bernard could sue for defamation.

The notice comes as a separate misconduct complaint alleging that Rokita intended to “harass and intimidate” doctors who perform abortions when he publicly questioned Bernard’s compliance with the law of the State. The lawsuit recently filed by Lauren Robel, the former dean of Maurer Law School at Indiana University, is expected to prompt an investigation by the state Supreme Court’s Disciplinary Committee after Rokita claimed the week last on Fox News that Bernard had “a history of not reporting.” ” abortions in the child abuse cases and quickly launched an investigation into his license to practice.

Indiana AG comments endangered abortion provider, complaint says

“We have this abortion activist acting as a doctor with a history of not reporting,” Rokita told Fox News host Jesse Watters at the time. “We are gathering the evidence as we speak, and we will fight to the end, including looking at his license. If she didn’t report it in Indiana, it’s a crime not to report it, intentionally not to report it.

A spokesperson for Rokita’s office dismissed Robel’s complaint this week, saying in an earlier statement to the Post that “any lawyer or client can file whatever they want, even without merit, which is the case here.” The attorney general’s office said that although no enforcement action has been filed against Bernard so far, it will continue to investigate his conduct.

But the first legal step toward a possible defamation lawsuit escalated a situation that began when Bernard told the Indianapolis Star in a July 1 article that she had been called by an Ohio doctor about a a young patient who is six weeks and three days pregnant. after being raped. Although the account of the girl’s situation quickly attracted international attention and was decried by President Biden, it was followed by an outpouring of skepticism from conservative politicians, pundits and the media. who expressed doubts. (The Washington Post also published a Fact Checker analysis that initially concluded that the girl report was a “very difficult story to verify.”)

The story was corroborated last week when Fuentes, 27, was charged after allegedly confessing to authorities that he raped the 10-year-old on at least two occasions. If convicted of first-degree rape, Fuentes could face life in prison.

Since then, however, Rokita has turned her attention to whether Bernard followed proper protocols to report the abortion, even though documents show it. Indiana University Health officials also told the Post that Bernard did not break any privacy laws when she shared an anecdote with the media about the 10-year-old rape victim who needed help. an abortion.

The doctor in the abortion case of a 10-year-old child was threatened with kidnapping in 2020 against his daughter

In the letter filed Tuesday to Rokita and Indiana state officials, DeLaney wrote that the attorney general has limited authority to investigate complaints against professionals in certain fields, such as doctors. The attorney noted that state law requires Rokita to “maintain the confidentiality of such complaints” unless he intends to sue.

Even though Bernard’s license in Indiana was “active with no disciplinary history” last Wednesday, the notice says the attorney general’s goal was to “enhance public condemnation” of the doctor.

“Mr. Rokita either knew the statements were false or acted with reckless disregard for the truth or falsity of the statements,” the notice reads. “The statements that Dr. Bernard has a history of not reporting,” which Mr. Rokita believes would constitute a crime, made in the absence of a reasonable investigation, do not serve any legitimate law enforcement purpose.Given the current political atmosphere in the United States, Mr. Rokita aimed to bolster public condemnation of Dr. Bernard, who was legally providing legitimate medical care.

María Luisa Paúl and Kim Bellware contributed to this report.