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Doctor who performed abortion on Ohio girl sues Indiana AG over access to medical records

On Wednesday, Dr. Caitlin Bernard and her lawyers filed an emergency motion asking the court to block AG Todd Rokita from accessing patient medical records.
Credit: CBS News

INDIANAPOLIS — Dr. Caitlin Bernard is suing Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita's office over the way he attempted to investigate allegations of abortions.

The complaint claims Rokita used "bogus consumer complaints to attempt access to patient medical records" as he investigated two doctors.

The filing claims Rokita ignored Indiana law. It goes on to say his office issued subpoenas for medical records based on complaints from people who were never a patient of either doctor investigated, who lack any personal knowledge of their work and provide no explanation of their validity.

In his investigation, Rokita requested medical records of patients who were not involved in the complaint.

The complaint claims Rokita has issued at least five subpoenas, but may have issued more "directly to persons and entities which may have medical records."

The suit claims, "these improper investigations unfairly burden Plaintiffs in numerous ways, threatening not only their livelihood but also the availability of the essential services they provide to their patients."

The lawsuit continues: "The Attorney General's and Director's improper conduct dissuades patients who need emergency abortions from seeking care. It also threatens patients seeking legal abortions that their most personal and private medical records and health care decisions could be exposed as part of a meritless investigation."

On Wednesday, Bernard and her lawyers fought back against Rokita's investigation, filing an emergency motion asking the court for relief from investigations initiated by Rokita, including subpoenas for patient records.

Lawyers for Bernard say the attorney general's "baseless investigations and subpoenas" pose a risk of "imminent harm" to Bernard, her medical partner Dr. Amy Caldwell and their patients. 

“There is a serious risk that patient identities could be disclosed to the public, which could subject them to harassment based on their most sensitive medical information,” said Kathleen DeLaney, counsel to Bernard and Caldwell.

DeLaney also said that Rokita's investigation could set a precedent where future patients will have to fear that their medical records will not be kept private. 

"Patients must be able to share with their doctors all information necessary for treatment without fear that politicians will obtain their medical records for improper purposes," DeLaney said.

Rokita's office responded to this latest lawsuit last week with the following statement to 13News:

“By statutory obligation, we investigate thousands of potential licensing, privacy, and other violations a year. A majority of the complaints we receive are, in fact, from nonpatients. Any investigations that arise as a result of potential violations are handled in a uniform manner and narrowly focused. We will discuss this particular matter further through the judicial filings we make.”

The attorney general's office issued another statement to 13News on Wednesday.

“Patient privacy is the foundation of medical ethics, and although the doctor’s newfound concern for her patients’ privacy is appreciated, albeit ironic, we will proceed to seek the truth no matter the attempts to push her narrative.”

RELATED: Attorney for Dr. Caitlin Bernard addresses consumer complaints in AG investigation

Bernard was the same doctor that provided abortion care for a 10-year-old child from Ohio, who was 9 years old when she was raped.

Attorneys for Bernard previously filed notice of a tort claim against Rokita for defamation.

On July 14, a letter sent from Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita to Gov. Eric Holcomb showed there was no current evidence Bernard ignored state law. IU Health previously reported that Bernard had followed Indiana privacy laws in her handling of the abortion.

RELATED: Trial date set for man accused of raping girl who traveled to Indiana for abortion

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