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Indiana doctor who provided abortion services to 10-year-old rape victim drops lawsuit against state AG

<i>Amanda Andrade-Rhoades/The New York Times/Redux</i><br/>Attorneys for Dr. Caitlin Bernard
Amanda Andrade-Rhoades/The New York Times/Redux
Attorneys for Dr. Caitlin Bernard

By Lauren del Valle and Christina Maxouris, CNN

Attorneys for Dr. Caitlin Bernard, the Indiana doctor who provided abortion services to a 10-year-old rape victim from Ohio, and her medical partner dropped their lawsuit against the state attorney general Thursday.

In July, Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita announced an investigation into Bernard’s potential failure to report the abortion and child abuse.

The doctors’ lawsuit had alleged Rokita’s office used illegitimate consumer complaints to seek patient records and pursue that probe, and it asked a court to prevent the official from using those complaints to continue the investigation.

An Indiana judge last week denied the doctors’ emergency motion, saying the jurisdiction of that matter fell under the state’s medical license board.

But the judge also found that Rokita had unlawfully breached confidentiality of his office’s investigation by publicly discussing the case in the media before filing a complaint with the medical licensing board.

(The attorney general filed the complaint with the board last Wednesday, alleging Bernard violated federal and state law related to patient privacy and the reporting of child abuse and requested the board take “appropriate disciplinary action.”)

In a statement Thursday, Bernard’s attorney said that with the voluntary dismissal, “we preserve our victory in court proving that the Attorney General violated Indiana law by publicly discussing the details of an investigation into Dr. Bernard which he was statutorily required to keep confidential at that stage.”

“While the motion for emergency relief was pending, AG Rokita dropped his investigation of (Bernard’s medical partner) altogether,” Attorney Kathleen DeLaney’s statement added.

A spokesperson for the state’s attorney general told CNN in a statement that the withdrawal decision “less than a week after our win in court is further confirmation that she was putting her political agenda above the privacy and safety of her 10 year old patient.”

“At the same time any of the court’s extraneous verbiage about the attorney general’s comments didn’t have legal value as the court itself acknowledged,” the statement added.

The case first garnered national attention over the summer, in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade and end the federal right to abortion.

Bernard, an obstetrician-gynecologist, helped the 10-year-old rape victim following Ohio’s ban of almost all abortions after six weeks of gestation.

Under Indiana law, an abortion performed on a person younger than 16 years of age must be reported to the state’s Department of Health and also to the Department of Child Services within three days of the abortion.

Bernard reported the abortion procedure to the Indiana Department of Health on July 2 — two days after it was performed — as required by the department, according to agency documents obtained by CNN.

Bernard’s employer, Indiana University Health, has concluded she was “in compliance with privacy laws.”

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