The Indiana obstetrician-gynecologist who performed an abortion on a 10-year-old rape survivor from Ohio sent Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita (R) a cease and desist letter on Friday, telling him to stop "making false and misleading statements" about her or face a potential defamation lawsuit. The unidentified girl was barred from getting an abortion in Ohio because her pregnancy had just passed the six-week mark and Ohio's abortion law doesn't have exceptions for rape or incest.
Rokita sent Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb (R) a letter on last week threatening the doctor, Caitlin Bernard, with "criminal prosecution and licensing repercussions" if his investigation determined she didn't file the required paperwork within three days of the abortion. He made similar general allegations about Bernard on Fox News.
Bernard's lawyer noted that Rokita continued publicly questioning whether she had filed the correct paperwork even after several news organizations — including The Associated Press, Politico, and the Indianapolis Star — obtained copies of the reports showing she did submit them on time. "Such inflammatory accusations" put Bernard and her patients in danger, the lawyer wrote.
The letter "will be reviewed if and when it arrives," Rokita's office said in a statement. "Regardless, no false or misleading statements have been made."
Indiana has not yet enacted new abortion restrictions since the Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade, but the state's GOP-dominated legislature is preparing to enact some sort of ban in a special summer session.
"We want to impress on the lawmakers the importance of including — at a minimum — exemptions for life and health, rape, and incest," Katie McHugh, an Indiana OB-GYN and board member with Physicians for Reproductive Health, told Politico. "But we know many members of the legislature would be happy to exclude all of those exemptions, which means we wouldn't have the ability to even care for patients like the 10-year-old child."
Exceptions for the health of the pregnant woman, rape, and incest have overwhelming public support, including from a majority of Republicans and GOP-leaning independents, the Post reports, but such exemptions are opposed by many leading anti-abortion groups and not included in most GOP state abortion laws.