For weeks, the story of a pregnant 10-year-old rape victim forced to flee Ohio for Indiana to obtain an abortion just days after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v Wade has gripped the nation--in part because of Republicans' viciously fascistic response.
Republicans immediately seized on the story, calling it a hoax. Days later, the rapist was apprehended and charged, and Republicans changed tacks, launching a series of dangerous attacks against Dr. Caitlin Bernard, who performed the abortion.
One of those Republicans is Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita, who claimed Bernard did not report the abortion or document the girl's abuse to the relevant authorities as required by law, and threatened to prosecute her and have her medical licensure revoked in response.
Except that Bernard had reported the abuse. It seems none of the Republicans in the media or Rokita himself had bothered to even check before smearing Bernard's name to a political demographic with a history of murdering abortion providers.
So now, in a move that has fans of reproductive rights cheering, Bernard is suing Rokita for defamation.
The furor over Bernard began immediately after the girl's rapist, Gerson Fuentes, was arraigned on July 13 following his confession to raping the girl at least twice.
Republicans immediately seized on two narratives about the girl's horrifying situation, one in which they blamed it on Fuentes' allegedly "illegal" immigration status, and one in which they accused Bernard of failing to report abuse and violating HIPAA laws.
The night of Fuentes' arraignment, Rokita told Fox News:
"We have this abortion activist acting as a doctor with a history of failing to report. We’re gathering the evidence as we speak, and we’re going to fight this to the end."
In a subsequent statement through his office, Rokita took his attacks even further, subtly accusing her of crimes.
“Aside from the horror caused here by illegal immigration, we are investigating this situation and are waiting for the relevant documents to prove if the abortion and/or the abuse were reported, as Dr. Caitlin Bernard had requirements to do both under Indiana law."
"The failure to do so constitutes a crime in Indiana, and her behavior could also affect her licensure."
"Additionally, if a HIPAA violation did occur, that may affect next steps as well."
Public records requests by national and local media revealed Bernard had in fact complied with all relevant reporting procedures, and her employer issued a statement Friday confirming a review of relevant HIPAA regulations found Bernard had committed no violations.
In response, Bernard's attorneys issued a statement about Rokita's accusations, calling him out for lying and calling his statements defamation.
“Mr. Rokita’s statements that Dr. Bernard was an ‘abortion activist acting as a doctor’ with a ‘history of failing to report’ were false." Mr. Rokita either knew the statements were false or acted with reckless disregard of the truth or falsity of the statements.”
"Mr. Rokita’s comments were intended to heighten public condemnation of Dr. Bernard, who legally provided legitimate medical care."
"Mr. Rokita’s false and misleading statements about alleged misconduct by Dr. Bernard in her profession constitute defamation."
On Twitter, people applauded Bernard for fighting back against Rokita's smear campaign.
Via his spokesperson Kelly Stevenson, Rokita issued a statement to Yahoo News calling Bernard's claims a "baseless" and "divisive" attempt to distract from Rokita's "historic work" as "a protector of unborn life and women."
A misconduct complaint has also been filed against Rokita, which is expected to trigger a probe by Indiana's Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission.