Caitlin Bernard, who provides abortions, is fighting Indiana over patient privacy

Suspension

An Indiana doctor who performed an abortion on a 10-year-old rape victim has asked a judge to block the Indiana state attorney general from accessing patients’ medical records as part of an investigation into consumer complaints that her lawyers have called “sham.”

Attorneys for Caitlin Bernard, an OB/GYN affiliated with Indiana University College of Medicine, and Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita (R) met Friday for an emergency hearing to determine whether to allow a subpoena for the 10-year-old patient’s medical charts as she begins a lawsuit seeking to Permanently stop Rokita’s investigation.

Bernard’s attorneys said Rokita’s efforts to obtain a patient’s medical charts are a disturbing breach of patient privacy that, if allowed, would shake confidence in doctor-patient confidentiality. The state responded by saying that Roketa’s office is allowed access to the records while it investigates complaints alleging Bernard of professional wrongdoing.

The courtroom battle began Friday, four months after Bernard made headlines for his treatment The 10-year-old rape victim, who was forced to have an abortion out of state Because of Ohio’s six-week abortion ban that took effect immediately thereafter Roe v. Wade was hit. Since then, the legal fight has intensified and become more politicized as the landscape of abortion access in the United States continues to shift.

She had an abortion of a 10-year-old girl. She still fights for her patients.

The hearing is scheduled to continue on Monday. Both sides on Friday raised questions about medical privacy, but with vastly different approaches.

Four expert witnesses testified for the plaintiffs regarding professional ethics and patient privacy. They specifically talked about the implications of third-party complaints that allowed her to issue subpoenas from sensitive medical records.

“She’s asking for very specific information,” said witness Kyle Brothers, a pediatric bioethicist from the University of Louisville who reviewed Rokita’s office’s civil investigation request, which has been withheld from the public. The brothers described the request as a request for information such as medical charts, names, addresses and other documents, According to the Indianapolis Star.

“This kind of disclosure, especially to a minor, is just heartbreaking,” he said, speaking of how the release of such specific medical information can affect a patient.

Rokita asserts that it was Bernard who invaded her patient’s privacy when she mentioned the case to a reporter for the Indianapolis Star; As part of a A story about patients who travel across state lines to receive an abortionBernard told an anecdote about a 10-year-old rape victim being referred to her by a “child abuse doctor” in Ohio.

Bernard’s attorney Kathleen Delaney told reporters at a news conference after the hearing Friday that experts agreed that it is routine and acceptable for doctors to discuss patients’ cases in an “indefinite manner,” specifically excluding names, dates of birth, county of residence or other identification. details.

“Many of our physician witnesses made clear today … that going through the entire patient chart is itself a violation of HIPAA,” DeLaney said. Neither patient complained about the care they received; They did not offer their medical care in a case in a medical or legal proceeding.”

Abortion is now prohibited in these states. See where the laws have changed.

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA, limits medical information that can be shared without patients’ permission.

DeLaney’s last point is an essential part of November 3 lawsuit It was brought against Rokita by Bernard and her medical partner Amy Caldwell alleging that he had failed legal due diligence procedures to investigate whether complaints to Bernard and Caldwell had merit.

The suit argues that Rokita relies on “apparently invalid consumer complaints to justify multiple, repeated, and extensive investigations with law-abiding physicians.”

“The consumer complaints were from people who heard about the situation on TV or from social media,” Delaney said at a press conference on Friday.

Once the story of a 10-year-old Ohio rape victim made national news, even President Biden denounced the US Supreme Court’s overturning. ruI made Roketa general He announces that he will investigate Bernard for possible wrongdoing.

Rokita appeared on Fox News less than two weeks after the Indianapolis Star story described Bernard as “this abortion activist who works as a doctor,” and claimed without evidence that she had a history of not reporting to wanted agencies.

“We are gathering evidence as we speak, and we will fight this to the end, including looking into her licensing,” Rokita said. “If you fail to report it in the state of Indiana, it is a crime—failure to report, willful failure to report.”

Bernard and her attorneys said she complied with all reporting requirements under Indiana law. Their confirmation has been proven before Indiana pregnancy termination reports obtained by The Washington Post in July, which indicated that Bernard had correctly reported performing the abortion on the child of a rape victim within the state-required three-day period. A review of Barnard’s records showed no previous complaints until after the 10-year-old victim’s story was made public.

According to the lawsuit, between July 8 and 12, seven people filed complaints against Bernard. And in the excerpts filed with the suit, the complainants do not indicate that they are patients of Barnard’s or even a resident of Indiana. One falsely claimed that Bernard “kept knowledge of the 10-year-old’s rape from the authorities” while another appears to have come from an Ohio resident who inaccurately described Bernard’s experience with the 10-year-old as “misinformation” intended to Downplaying Ohio and insulting “pro-life” supporters. Another complaint simply attached search engine query results.

Bernard, who is expected to testify Monday when Rokita’s attorneys call their witnesses, said in a statement after the hearing on Friday that her commitment to ethical patient care includes protecting patient privacy.

“Make no mistake, the intent of this alleged investigation is to silence doctors who provide abortion care and make people who seek abortion care afraid to do so,” Bernard said.

“The attorney general’s office will be talking through the court files,” Deputy Attorney General Patricia Erdmann told reporters after the hearing. In a brief statement after the hearing, Roketa’s office said it “will continue to move this legal battle forward to ensure that the privacy of every patient in Indiana is protected.”

A final ruling on the preliminary injunction is expected next week.

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