Indiana AG’s argument against abortion doctor starts to unravel

As recently as a few days ago, several prominent Republicans and their allies in conservative media had an unfortunate response to the story of a 10-year-old Ohio girl who was impregnated by a rapist: The claims, they said, were not to be trusted.

The right’s pushback against the story collapsed when a man was charged with the horrific crime and reportedly confessed.

Soon after, Todd Rokita, Indiana’s Republican attorney general, decided to shift his attention to someone he saw as an entirely different villain: The physician who treated the rape victim who had to travel to Indiana for medical care because of Ohio Republicans’ abortion ban.

On Wednesday night, Rokita appeared on Fox News and vowed to investigate the obstetrician-gynecologist, suggesting the doctor may have even engaged in criminal misconduct. In case his comments were too subtle, the GOP attorney general issued a written statement yesterday, questioning whether the physician followed reporting requirements. “The failure to do so constitutes a crime in Indiana,” Rokita’s statement added.

A few hours later, the Fox affiliate in Indianapolis reported that the OBGYN in question, Dr. Caitlin Bernard, “not only filed a terminated pregnancy report but filed the report within the required timeframe.” The outlet’s report was based, not on leaked materials, but through a routine public records request — a step the Indiana attorney general’s office could’ve taken before Rokita started accusing the doctor of wrongdoing.

The New York Times highlighted the same materials.

A lawyer for the Indiana obstetrician who has drawn national attention for providing abortion care to a 10-year-old rape victim said on Thursday that the doctor had taken “every appropriate and proper action” in the case — including filing necessary forms to report the abortion with state authorities, contrary to the assertions of Indiana’s attorney general.

Or put another way, Rokita’s claims unraveled with remarkable speed. As Talking Points Memo’s Josh Marshall summarized, “In other words, Rokita went forward with a series of defamatory claims and accusations against Bernard and called down a nationwide campaign of harassment against vilification against her apparently without even the most cursory of records checks that were not only available to him as attorney general but members of the public in roughly 24 hours.”

It was bad enough that the Republican Hoosier launched an offensive against the physician in the first place. We are, after all, talking about an OBGYN who treated a 10-year-old rape victim.

But Rokita, a former member of Congress, made rather specific claims about alleged misconduct, which were contradicted — within hours — by evidence he could’ve reviewed before making accusations to a national audience.

The physician’s attorney said in a statement, “We are considering legal action against those who have smeared my client.” Given that Bernard is not a public figure, that would be a case well worth watching.

July 12, 202206:58