Bernard has always defended his actions, telling the board on Thursday that he followed Indiana hospital policy and reporting requirements in notifying hospital social workers of child abuse, and that Ohio authorities were already investigating. the rape of the girl. Bernard’s lawyers also said she did not release any identifying information about the girl that would violate privacy laws.
The Indianapolis Star cited the girl’s case in a July 1 article that sparked a national political uproar in the weeks after the US Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade last summer, enforcing an Ohio law that prohibited abortions after six weeks of pregnancy. Some Republican media outlets and politicians falsely suggested that Bernard fabricated the story, until a 27-year-old man was accused of rape in Columbus, Ohio. During an event at the White House, President Joe Biden was about to shout his outrage over the case.
Board chairman Dr. John Strobel said he believed Bernard went too far in telling a reporter about the girl’s pending abortion and that doctors should be careful about observing patient privacy.
“I don’t think she expected this to go viral,” Strobel said of Bernard. “I don’t think she expected this attention to go to this patient. She did it. Occurred.»
Bernard’s attorney, Alice Morical, told the board Thursday that the doctor reported child abuse of patients many times a year and that a hospital social worker had confirmed with Ohio child protection staff that it was safe for the girl to be out with her mother.
«Dr. Bernard could not have anticipated the unusual and intense scrutiny this story received,» Morical said. «She did not expect politicians to say she made up the story.»
Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita’s complaint called for the licensing board to impose «appropriate disciplinary action» but did not specify the sanction requested.
Amid the wave of attention on the girl’s case last summer, Rokita, who is stridently anti-abortion, told Fox News she would investigate Bernard’s actions, calling her an «abortion activist acting like a doctor.»
Assistant Attorney General Cory Voight argued Thursday that the board needed to address what he called an «egregious violation» of patient privacy and Bernard’s failure to notify the Indiana Department of Children’s Services and police about the violation. .
“There hasn’t been a case like this before the board,” Voight said. «No doctor has been so brazen in pursuing his own agenda.»
Voight asked Bernard why he discussed the case of the Ohio girl with the newspaper reporter and later in other media interviews instead of using a hypothetical situation.
“I think it’s incredibly important that people understand the real-world impacts of this country’s abortion laws,” Bernard said. «I think it’s important that people know what patients are going to go through because of the legislation that’s being passed, and a scenario doesn’t have that impact.»
During Thursday’s hearing, Rokita’s office kept up a running commentary on his official Twitter account, with a post saying: «When Bernard spoke about the high priority he places on legislation and speaking to the public, he did so at the expense of his own patient. This shows what his priorities are as an activist rather than as a doctor ”.
Bernard took issue with Voight saying his choice to publicly discuss the case led to the misconduct allegations.
“I think if Attorney General Todd Rokita hadn’t chosen to make this his political stunt, we wouldn’t be here today,” Bernard said.
Lawyers for the attorney general’s office repeatedly raised questions about whether the policy of Bernard’s employer, Indiana University Health, of reporting suspected child abuse to authorities in the state where the abuse occurred complied with Indiana law. Officials from IU Health, which is the largest hospital system in the state, testified that the Indiana Department of Children’s Services has never opposed the hospital’s policy.
Indiana’s board, with five doctors and an attorney present who were appointed or reappointed by Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb, had wide latitude under state law that allowed it to issue letters of reprimand or suspend, revoke or place on probation a medical license. .
The Ohio law imposing a near-ban on abortion was in effect for about two months, before being put on hold as a lawsuit against it unfolds. The Republican-dominated Indiana Legislature passed a statewide abortion ban weeks after the Ohio girl’s case drew attention, but abortions continue to be allowed in the state while awaiting a court decision. Indiana Supreme Court on the constitutionality of the ban.
Bernard tried unsuccessfully to block Rokita’s investigation last fall, though an Indianapolis judge wrote that Rokita committed «clearly unlawful violations» of state confidentiality laws with its public comments about investigating the doctor before filing the medical leave complaint. against him.