The punishment for fact-checking anti-abortion lies is in.
The Indiana doctor who provided a needed abortion to a 10-year-old rape victim has been reprimanded by the state medical board for discussing the case with the media.
Dr. Caitlin Bernard, an OB-GYN from Indiana, has been the target of a Right wing disinformation campaign after she provided an abortion to a 10-year-old rape victim and mentioned the case, without naming the patient, to counter the anti-abortion rhetoric that was dominating the political landscape in the summer of 2022.
“The state’s medical board voted to issue Dr. Bernard a letter of reprimand and a fine of $3,000. But it decided against stiffer penalties, which could have included suspension or probation, instead deciding that Dr. Bernard is fit to return to her practice.
“The board also cleared her of other allegations that she failed to appropriately report the girl’s rape to authorities,” the New York Times reported Friday, adding, “The decision was the culmination of a yearlong legal pursuit of Dr. Bernard by the state’s attorney general, Todd Rokita, a Republican who opposes abortion.”
The chair of the American Medical Association’s Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs pointed out as quoted in the Times that Dr. Bernard had an “affirmative obligation to speak out” and that she is “one of just two doctors in Indiana with expertise in complicated obstetric cases like second-trimester abortions.
Anti-abortion activist Rokita pursued charges against this doctor so relentlessly that he ended up actually being found guilty of violating the law in the doing. Professional ethics lapses might be his specialty. To what end? What was the goal here?
Soon after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v Wade on June 24, 2022, a 10-year-old rape victim from Ohio became the victim of a Right wing led public attack on her credibility and the medical need for her to get an abortion, with legacy media offering factchecks that were proven to be woefully misinformed about abortion as a medical procedure and the harm of pregnancy on a young girl’s body.
At the time, I wrote in these pages, “Glenn Kessler at the Washington Post … cast doubt upon the story, claiming there was only one on-the-record source, the treating doctor, whom he described as an ‘activist.’ Kessler called the story something that fed into the President’s ‘talking points.'”
That factcheck gave rise to what became a nation-wide effort to discredit the rape victim and the doctor. It used the unfounded Republican suggestion that a doctor would lie about rape because the doctor had an agenda other than to help her patient as a given and ignored that 80% plus of rapes are not reported to the police. It also assumed that a 10 year old could get pregnant without rape, which is not actually possible. All 10 year old pregnant girls have been raped by someone.
Why was this rape ever “fact-checked”? While Republicans and the media were running with the idea that this rape didn’t happen and if it did it is so rare that abortion is not necessary right, it came out that 52 under-15-year-olds got abortions in Ohio in 2020, which is one abortion necessary per week due to rape.
Thirty-four percent of victims of sexual assault and rape are under age 12. So, abortion is necessary. There is simply no way around this fact. Eventually, there was also an arrest made in this specific case. The burned media began regrouping and now are much more informed and responsible in their coverage of this topic.
But this was the narrative around abortion just one year ago; it was a Republican-led discussion, until it wasn’t once Roe was overturned and the reality of abortion being a human right forced itself into the public sphere with story after story of cases that reasonable people could see should be “exceptions” becoming too gruesome to ignore.
Republicans, with a big assist from the then still ill-informed press, were attacking Dr. Bernard for political reasons, with accusations including claiming she failed to report the case. She did report the case two days after the procedure as required by law on 2 July, 2022.
For anyone still doubtful that the charges against this doctor were politically motivated, Indiana’s Republican Attorney General Todd Rokita opened an investigation of the doctor, claiming she “failed to uphold legal and Hippocratic responsibilities.”
Guess who was then found guilty of violating confidentiality laws for going on Fox News to undermine this doctor? That’s right. Attorney General Todd Rokita. A court ruling found that Rokita violated the law during a Fox News appearance in which he accused Dr. of being an “abortion activist acting as a doctor.” The judge found Rokita’s comments “caused Bernard ‘irreparable harm’ to her reputation and professional standing.”
The lies about this rape victim, her doctor, and the need for abortion continue unabated in anti-abortion circles one year later.
Here’s video of Laura Strietmann, an anti-abortionist who is still lying a year later about the events surrounding the young rape victim in order to make her position appear less harmful than it is. Ohio State Representative Jessica E Miranda (D) countered by pointing out how offensive it was for the family of the young girl and the 10-year-old who has already been through quite enough and had an entire political party and national media gaslighting her rape.
“It was reported. So let us not continue to spread disinformation time and time again about certain family’s personal issues that they have dealt with in terms of a 10-year-old rape victim being raped and child sexual abuse.”
Laura Strietmann, Cincinnati Right to Life leader, on the 10-year-old girl who was raped and went to Indiana for an abortion:
"While a pregnancy might have been difficult on a 10-year-old body, a woman's body is designed to carry life."
OH State Rep. Miranda (D) shuts her down. pic.twitter.com/ZscOCUYapd
— Heartland Signal (@HeartlandSignal) April 19, 2023
What is the purpose of these lies and attacks? The purpose of these politically motivated charges appears to be to silence this doctor about the medical need for abortion. Abortion is a human right. Pregnancy is more dangerous than abortion and young girls’ bodies can’t handle pregnancy.
Rokita politicized a 10-year-old rape victim’s case to further his activist agenda against medical freedom for girls and women. He did it by smearing the doctor who provided the service and trying to silence her over and over again. Today’s reprimand will have a chilling impact upon other doctors who might be considering speaking up for their patients.
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