Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita (R) went on Fox News last week to accuse an abortion provider of not following state reporting laws when she cared for a 10-year-old rape survivor from Ohio. (The girl had to leave the state for care due to an abortion ban that took effect after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.) Now that abortion provider, Dr. Caitlin Bernard, has launched defamation proceedings against Rokita.
Rokita called for the state to investigate Bernard on July 13, and health officials released documents the next day showing that Bernard did report the abortion—which was conducted with pills at Indiana University Health Medical Center in Indianapolis—to the state.
Bernard’s attorney, Kathleen DeLaney, sent a cease and desist letter to Rokita on Friday, asking him to stop “false and misleading statements about alleged misconduct by Dr. Bernard in her profession, which constitute defamation per se.”
Now, DeLaney has sent a tort claim notice to Rokita and other state officials which outlines the harm that the state of Indiana and Rokita have done to Bernard’s professional reputation. The notice is “the first step in the process to potentially filing a defamation suit against the AG” and “triggers a ninety-day investigatory period for the state to settle the claim, after which a lawsuit can be filed.” The 90-day period ends on October 17.
“[Rokita] is wrongly accusing her of misconduct in her profession, so we want that smear campaign to stop,” DeLaney told NPR on Tuesday.
The claim notes that Bernard intends to seek damages not only for legal fees and reputational harm, but also for security costs as she and her family are facing threats. It also addresses that Rokita’s comments were made during a politically fraught time: “Statements that Dr. Bernard has a ‘history of failing to report,’ which Mr. Rokita indicated would constitute a crime, made in the absence of reasonable investigation, serve no legitimate law enforcement purpose. 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.”
Luckily for Bernard, defamation is super easy to prove now—when you’re a famous man. Too bad the U.S. legal system hates abortion rights.