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.
\u201cDr. Caitlin Bernard, an Indianapolis doctor who provided abortion care to a 10-year-old rape victim, is preparing to sue Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita for defamation after he said he would investigate her actions in the case. https://t.co/ISF2jnbo5k\u201d— The New York Times (@The New York Times) 1658282411
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.
\u201cYES! "Today, Kathleen DeLaney of DeLaney & DeLaney LLC filed a Tort Claim Notice against Attorney General Todd Rokita and the Office of the AG on behalf of her client Caitlin Bernard, M.D., an Indianapolis obstetrician-gynecologist." 1st step to defamation suit\u201d— Jennifer "Pro-privacy" Rubin (@Jennifer "Pro-privacy" Rubin) 1658247047
\u201cI hope that Dr. Bernard will also remember to file an ethical complaint against this loser, asking that he be disbarred for dishonesty and misuse of his office. \n\nDr. Caitlin Bernard might sue Indiana AG Todd Rokita for defamation\u2014lawyer https://t.co/VkuLbev5y4\u201d— \ud83c\uddfa\ud83c\udde6TomHudsonStandsAgainstPutin\ud83c\uddfa\ud83c\udde6 (@\ud83c\uddfa\ud83c\udde6TomHudsonStandsAgainstPutin\ud83c\uddfa\ud83c\udde6) 1657911835
\u201cIndiana AG @AGToddRokita is getting sued defamation by Dr. Bernard and her attorneys. Will Todd Rokita be dipping.out of public funds to defend his lawsuit? Todd Rokita messed with the wrong person and needs to be held accountable. He should resign\u201d— Eric Jokem (@Eric Jokem) 1658268046
\u201cDr. Caitlin Bernard, who performed the abortion on the 10 year old Ohio rape victim, is suing Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita for defamation, comments he made publicly on Fox Tabloid. I hope she nails his \u201cass\u201d to the floor.\u201d— FLASH GORDON (@FLASH GORDON) 1658259755
\u201c@AliceOllstein As she should... I'd recommend adding FoxNews and any rightwing media networks that were enabling his slander to her case.\u201d— Alice Miranda Ollstein (@Alice Miranda Ollstein) 1658246762
\u201c@JRubinBlogger Would love to see a tort claim notice issued to Jim Jordan and Fox News while they\u2019re at it.\u201d— Jennifer "Pro-privacy" Rubin (@Jennifer "Pro-privacy" Rubin) 1658247047
\u201cI hope she owns the STATE when she is done!! https://t.co/LpiqcfAj8j\u201d— Suzanne Hooper (@Suzanne Hooper) 1658258991
\u201c@nytimes This is the kind of bravery we need. Doctors who refuse to comply. I know it\u2019scary but we need it. We have the power to simply ignore these ridiculous laws.\u201d— The New York Times (@The New York Times) 1658282411
\u201c@NPR I hope she does. I hope more people whose lives are upended by willfully malicious BS are able to find attorneys who will help them recover some significant monetary relief.\u201d— NPR (@NPR) 1658246629
\u201c#GOPDeathCult, tried to force a 10 yr old rape victim to give birth, and then, the AG of Indiana, @ToddRokitaIN, slandered the Doctor who saved the 10 yr old's life!\n\nI hope Dr. Bernard's lawyers sues Todd Rokita for everything he owns! \n\n https://t.co/dYEnDxOFms\u201d— Shelly R Kirchoff (@Shelly R Kirchoff) 1658318901
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.