Judge rules Rokita violated law, but denies abortion provider's request to halt investigation

Judge rules Rokita violated law, but denies abortion provider’s request to halt investigation

A county judge ruled Friday that Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita violated state law, breaking confidentiality in his office’s investigation of Dr. Caitlin Bernard.

But the judge also denied Bernard’s request to stop Rokita’s investigation.

Records show Bernard filed the proper paperwork after aborting a 10-year-old girl from Ohio and cooperating with authorities investigating her rape.

But Attorney General Todd Rokita went on cable TV, accused Bernard of breaking the law without any evidence and threatened to revoke his medical license.

Since then, Rokita’s office has launched an investigation into Bernard based, he said, on consumer complaints.

Bernard sued Rokita, seeking to prevent his investigation from continuing and to prevent his office from accessing his patient’s medical records, which they had requested.

Marion County Judge Heather Welch ruled Rokita broke the law by publicly discussing the investigation before her office filed a formal complaint with the Indiana Medical Licensing Board.

READ MORE: Rokita Files Medical Licensing Board Complaint Against Abortion Care Provider

This official complaint was filed on Wednesday. And Welch denied Bernard’s request to stop the investigation because the matter is now in the hands of the council.

Welch deemed it unnecessary to prevent Rokita from further discussing the investigation in public, since he is now allowed to do so after the complaint was filed with the licensing commission.

Bernard had also argued that the investigation should be halted because the consumer complaints were without merit.

But Welch dismissed that claim. She wrote that state law allows the state’s Consumer Protection Division (part of the attorney general’s office) to fully investigate a complaint before determining whether it has merit.

In a statement, Rokita’s office called Friday’s decision a major victory.

“Without the doctor’s violation of his patient’s privacy by speaking to the media, this story would never have been made public,” Rokita’s office said.

Justice Welch’s decision rejected this premise.

“There is nowhere in the law that says the attorney general’s obligation to keep the investigation confidential is waived when the subject of the investigation makes it public,” Welch said.

Additionally, court testimony revealed that Bernard had no “[go] to the media” about the case. A reporter overheard her talking about it in general terms and then asked Bernard about it.

Rokita’s office also maintained that the investigation was not about abortion. He said the issue was whether Bernard reported the rape to authorities, as required by law.

Evidence presented in court revealed that the doctor’s team was in contact with authorities in Ohio even before they saw the patient. And she reported to the Indiana Department of Health and the Indiana Department of Children’s Services within three days of the abortion.

State law dictates that child abuse must be reported immediately to local law enforcement or DCS. It does not define the immediate.

In a statement, Bernard’s attorney, Kathleen DeLaney, said the judge’s decision found that Rokita’s unlawful actions caused irreparable harm to Bernard’s reputation and professional reputation.

“We are confident in the case and evidence we have already developed and look forward to presenting Dr. Bernard’s evidence to the Medical Licensing Board,” DeLaney said.

There is no timetable for the work of the licensing commission.

Contact reporter Brandon at bsmith@ipbs.org or follow him on Twitter at @brandonjsmith5.

Copyright 2022 IPB News. To learn more, visit IPB News.

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