An Indiana doctor who is being investigated by the state attorney general for providing abortion services to a 10-year-old Ohio girl has filed a lawsuit against the official, saying that his office exploited bogus consumer complaints to get patient data and continue the investigation.
Attorneys for Dr. Caitlin Bernard and her medical partner filed the suit in Marion County, Indiana, on Thursday, seeking a judge to block Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita from utilising the allegations to further the probe.
According to the lawsuit, Rokita’s office issued subpoenas for sensitive medical information in response to complaints from third parties “who have no link with the targeted physicians or their patients” and “who lack any firsthand knowledge of the claimed facts.
According to the lawsuit, this is illegal since state law requires an attorney general’s inquiry of licenced professionals to be based on complainants’ relationship to, or personal knowledge of, the subject of the complaint.
According to Bernard’s lawyers, the attorney general’s office issued at least five subpoenas seeking sensitive medical data based on the allegedly unlawful allegations. According to the lawsuit, the medical data belong to individuals “who did not submit complaints against their physicians and who by all accounts are totally happy with the medical care they got.”
The complaint claims that “these erroneous investigations unduly burden plaintiffs in multiple ways, endangering not only their livelihoods but also the provision of the important services they offer to their patients.
Rokita and Scott Barnhart, the head of the attorney general’s consumer protection office, are named as defendants in the case.
CNN inquired Thursday with the attorney general’s office about the subpoenas, the status of the Bernard investigation, and comment on the complaint.
Every year, we examine hundreds of suspected licencing, privacy, and other infractions under legislative mandate. The vast majority of complaints we receive are from nonpatients, explained office spokesman Kelly Stevenson. Any inquiries that occur as a consequence of possible infractions are handled consistently and carefully. We will go into further detail about this issue in our judicial papers.
The lawsuit is the latest twist in a tale that has thrown Bernard into the debate about abortion rights in the United States since a Supreme Court ruling on June 24 reversed Roe v. Wade and eliminated the federal right to abortion.
Rokita announced in July that he would look into Bernard’s refusal to disclose the abortion and probable breach of patient privacy regulations.
Indiana authorised abortions up to 20 weeks after conception at the time. An abortion performed on a child under the age of 16 must, however, be notified to the state’s Department of Health as well as the Department of Child Services within three days following the procedure.
According to agency papers acquired by CNN, Bernard reported the abortion procedure to the Indiana Department of Health on July 2 – two days after it was conducted – as required by the department.
The Indiana Department of Child Services refused to acknowledge if it had received a complaint from Bernard on Thursday, citing confidentiality laws.
In July, Indiana University Health claimed it completed a review in this matter with Bernard’s “full participation” and decided she was “in compliance with privacy regulations.”
The suit claims that the consumer complaints “were submitted by persons who are not customers and who did not engage in, or seek to engage in, a transaction in Indiana, let alone a transaction with plaintiffs.
Indeed, the majority of the complaints were filed by people who do not live in Indiana and have no ties to the state. “The complaints plainly stated that they were based on news items and social media posts,” according to the suit.
Bernard’s attorney, Kathleen DeLaney, told CNN in late July that the attorney general had issued Bernard six letters opening investigations based on complaints from citizens of California, Kentucky, Missouri, and Ohio, as well as one from Indian Country.