INDIANAPOLIS (WXIN) — An attorney representing Dr. Caitlin Bernard, who provided an abortion on a 10-year-old rape victim, has filed a tort claim against Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita. It’s the first step in a defamation lawsuit against Rokita.
“Mr. Rokita’s false and misleading statements about alleged misconduct by Dr. Bernard in her profession constitute defamation,” said Bernard’s attorney, Kathleen A. DeLaney.
The lawsuit comes on the heels of a cease and desist issued by DeLaney, which was itself a response to Rokita’s continued public comments aimed at Bernard. Rokita went on Fox News on July 13 to call Bernard an “abortion activist acting as a doctor,” say she had a “history of failing to report,” and even to threaten to go after Bernard’s license. The Fox News caption beneath Rokita read, “Doc Failed to Report Abortion Abuse Victim,” the tort claim said.
However, NEWS10’s affiliate in Indianapolis obtained the report, which shows that Bernard did file it as required and within the timeframe required. DeLaney said that a “simple check” on a government license website confirms that Bernard’s active license with no disciplinary history. Indiana University Health also issued a statement saying that its investigation into Bernard found her in compliance with privacy laws.
Despite Rokita and his office being able to obtain this information, he spoke publically, in national and local media, continuing to pledge to investigate her professional license and implying doubt that she filed the report. “Rokita either knew the statements were false or acted with reckless disregard to the truth or falsity of the statements. Mr. Rokita recklessly and/or negligently failed to ascertain whether the statements about Dr. Bernard’s licensure were true or false before making them,” DeLaney said in the tort claim.
DeLaney said that Rokita’s ongoing statements “exceed the general scope of Mr. Rokita’s authority as Indiana’s Attorney General.” The torn claim adds: “Given the current political atmosphere in the United States, Mr. Rokita’s comments were intended to heighten public condemnation of Dr. Bernard, who legally provided legitimate medical care.”
The tort claim filing triggers a 90 investigative period for the state to settle the claim, after which a lawsuit can be filed. Rokita’s office has not yet returned a request for comment.