Caitlin Bernard, who provides abortions, fights Indiana on patient privacy

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An Indiana doctor who aborted a 10-year-old rape victim has asked a judge to block the Indiana attorney general from accessing the patient’s medical records as part of an investigation into consumer complaints his lawyers called a “sham.”

Caitlin Barnard, an OB/GYN affiliated with the Indiana University School of Medicine, and attorneys for Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita (R) met Friday for an emergency hearing to determine whether to allow a subpoena of the 10-year-old patient’s medical charts. While a case is pending to permanently stop Rokita’s investigation.

Barnard’s lawyers said Rokita’s attempt to obtain the patient’s medical charts was a vexatious violation of patient privacy that, if allowed, would undermine trust in doctor-patient confidentiality. The state countered that Rokita’s office is allowed to access the records as it investigates allegations of professional misconduct against Bernard.

Friday’s court battle began four months after Barnard made headlines for its treatment of a 10-year-old rape victim who was forced to have an abortion out of state due to the immediate effect of Ohio’s six-week abortion ban. Roe v. Wade was hit Since then, the legal battle has intensified and become more political as the landscape of abortion access in the United States continues to change.

She gave a 10-year-old an abortion. He is still fighting for his patients.

The hearing will continue on Monday. Both sides raised the question of medical privacy on Friday, but with substantially different approaches.

Four expert witnesses for the plaintiffs testified about professional ethics and patient confidentiality. They specifically spoke to the implications of allowing third-party complaints to trigger subpoenas of sensitive medical records.

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“It’s asking for very specific information,” said witness Kyle Brothers, a pediatric bioethics expert at the University of Louisville who reviewed a civil investigative demand from Rokita’s office, which is sealed from the public. Brothers described the request as seeking information such as medical charts, names, addresses and other documentation, according to the Indianapolis Star.

“That kind of disclosure, especially to a minor, is just heartbreaking,” he said, talking about how revealing such specific medical information could affect a patient.

Rokita claimed that it was Bernard who violated her patient confidentiality when she mentioned the case to a reporter from the Indianapolis Star; As part of a story about patients traveling across state lines to access abortions, Barnard recounts an anecdote about a 10-year-old rape victim being referred by “a child abuse doctor” in Ohio.

Barnard’s attorney Kathleen Delaney told reporters at a press conference after Friday’s hearing that experts agreed it was routine and acceptable for doctors to discuss patient cases in an “identifying manner” without name, date of birth, county of residence or any other specific identifiers. details

“Multiple of our doctor witnesses today made the point … that following patients’ entire charts is itself a HIPAA violation,” Delaney said. “No patient complained about the care they received; They did not subject their medical care to any medical procedure or legal process.”

Abortion is now prohibited in these states. See where the law has changed.

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

DeLaney’s last point is a key part of Rokita’s Nov. 3 lawsuit filed against Barnard and his medical partner Amy Caldwell alleging that he failed in his statutory due diligence to investigate whether the charges against Barnard and Caldwell had merit.

The suit argues that Rokita is “relying on verbally invalid consumer complaints to justify multiple, duplicitous and excessive investigations of law-abiding physicians.”

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

Once the story of a 10-year-old Ohio rape victim made national news, it was even mentioned by President Biden as he condemned the U.S. Supreme Court’s reversal. RoRokita has publicly announced that she will investigate Bernard for possible wrongdoing.

Less than two weeks after the Indianapolis Star story was published, Rokita appeared on Fox News and described Bernard as “this abortion activist acting as a doctor” and claimed, without evidence, that he had a history of not reporting to required agencies.

“We’re gathering evidence as we speak, and we will ultimately fight this, including looking at his license,” Rokita said. “If he fails to report in Indiana, that’s a felony — failure to report, willful failure to report.”

Barnard and his attorneys said he complied with all reporting requirements under Indiana law. Their claim was substantiated by Indiana’s termination of pregnancy reports obtained by The Washington Post in July, which indicated that Barnard had accurately reported abortions of rape victims within the state’s required three-day period. A review of Barnard’s records showed no prior charges until the 10-year-old victim’s story went public.

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Between July 8 and 12, seven people filed complaints against Barnard, according to the lawsuit. In citations filed in the lawsuit, the plaintiffs do not indicate they are Barnard’s patients or even Indiana residents. One falsely alleged that Barnard “had knowledge of the rape of a 10-year-old from authorities,” while another appeared to be from an Ohio resident who mischaracterized Barnard’s experience dealing with a 10-year-old child as “false information” meant to undermine Ohio. to do and insult. “Pro-life” supporters. Another complaint simply linked the results of a search-engine query.

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

“Make no mistake, the purpose of this so-called investigation is to silence physicians who provide abortion care and to make people afraid of seeking abortion care,” Barnard said.

Deputy Attorney General Patricia Erdman told reporters after the hearing that “the attorney general’s office will speak through its court filings.” In a brief statement after the hearing, Rokita’s office said it “will continue to move forward in this legal fight to protect the privacy of every patient in Indiana.”

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

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