Dr. Caitlin Bernard has repeatedly refused to answer media outlets’ inquiries about key aspects of her claims.
Update (July 13, 1:27 p.m.): The Columbus Dispatch confirms the story that a ten-year-old girl in Ohio who was raped traveled to Indiana for an abortion, and an arrest has been made.
Update (July 15, 6:04 a.m.): A public records request shows that Dr. Caitlin Bernard filed the legally form with the state of Indiana about the abortion.
A story about a ten-year-old rape victim who traveled from Ohio to Indiana for an abortion has rocketed around the media, and was even angrily recounted by President Biden at an abortion-themed press conference last Friday. But the sole source of the story is refusing to answer important questions that could prove whether it is true or false.
On July 1, reporters for the Indianapolis Star reported that:
On Monday [June 27] three days after the Supreme Court issued its groundbreaking decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, Dr. Caitlin Bernard, an Indianapolis obstetrician-gynecologist, took a call from a colleague, a child abuse doctor in Ohio.
Hours after the Supreme Court action, the Buckeye state had outlawed any abortion after six weeks. Now this doctor had a 10-year-old patient in the office who was six weeks and three days pregnant.
Could Bernard help?
Indiana lawmakers are poised to further restrict or ban abortion in mere weeks. The Indiana General Assembly will convene in a special session July 25 when it will discuss restrictions to abortion policy along with inflation relief.
But for now, the procedure still is legal in Indiana. And so the girl soon was on her way to Indiana to Bernard’s care.
The story was quickly picked up by a wide array of media outlets. South Dakota governor Kristi Noem was grilled about it on CNN on July 3, and President Biden repeated it as a fact at his White House press conference on Friday. Yet many doubts have been raised about whether the story is true.
For instance, where did the alleged rape occur in Ohio? Bernard has refused to answer the question. The Ohio attorney general says that although Ohio law would require the “child abuse doctor” to report a suspected case of child rape to the authorities, there is no sign that such a case has been reported to authorities anywhere in the state.
Bernard is also refusing to say whether she submitted reports to Indiana’s department of health and its department of child services, as state law requires. (Update, July 15, 6:04 a.m.: A public records request shows that Dr. Caitlin Bernard filed the legally form with the state of Indiana about the abortion.) The Indiana Code states that a report must be submitted to the state department of health for each abortion performed, and the report must also be submitted to the department of child services within three days of the abortion if the patient undergoing the abortion is under the age of 16. It is a crime in Indiana for a health-care provider to fail to submit such a report. By statute, “Each failure to complete or timely transmit a form, as required under this section, for each abortion performed or abortion inducing drug that was provided, prescribed, administered, or dispensed, is a Class B misdemeanor.”
The original July 1 Star article reported that the ten-year-old had traveled to Indiana for an abortion under “Bernard’s care.” National Review asked Bernard via text message today if she had filed the legally required reports on the alleged abortion with the state. “I have no information to share,” Bernard replied.
Bernard has similarly refused to answer questions posed by the fact-checking website Snopes and the Washington Post.
Snopes reported on July 5 that “Bernard had not returned our request for an interview, and we had not been able to independently corroborate the abortion claim. If we receive additional information, [we] will update this post.” That same day, Megan Fox of PJ Media raised several key questions: If Bernard’s story were true, where was the criminal investigation in Ohio of this heinous act of rape? Wasn’t the timing of the story and the specificity of the victim’s being precisely three days past the legal deadline for receiving an abortion in Ohio suspicious?
While Bernard did not grant an interview to Snopes on July 5, she did appear the next day on a friendly MSNBC show. On July 6, MSNBC host Lawrence O’Donnell asked Bernard what it had felt like to get a phone call about a “ten-year-old rape victim,” — she replied that it had been “incredibly difficult” — but O’Donnell did not ask any questions about the veracity of her claim.
After President Biden repeated the story on July 8, Bernard was back to ducking interviews. The Washington Post’s Fact Checker columnist, Glenn Kessler, reported that Bernard would not identify to him the name of the alleged “child abuse doctor” or the “city where the child was located.” As Kessler noted, “Under Ohio law, a physician, as a mandated reporter under Ohio Revised Code 2151.421, would be required to report any case of known or suspected physical, sexual or emotional abuse or neglect of a child to their local child welfare or law enforcement agency.”
“I’m sorry, but I don’t have any information to share,” Bernard told Kessler in an email.
On July 11, Ohio attorney general Dave Yost said during a Fox News interview that any doctor would be mandated to report a case of suspected child rape to law enforcement, but there had not been even “a whisper” in the state of an investigation of a case matching the one described by Caitlin Bernard:
Not a whisper, and we work closely with the centralized law-enforcement system in Ohio. We have regular contact with prosecutors and local police and sheriffs. Not a whisper anywhere. Something even more telling . . . is my office runs the state crime lab. [In] any case like this, you are going to have a rape kit, you are going to have biological evidence, and you would be looking for DNA analysis, which we do most of the DNA Analysis in Ohio. There is no case request for analysis that looks anything like this.
Yost added that the Ohio law banning abortion after six weeks of pregnancy has a “medical-emergency exception broader than just the life of the mother. This young girl, if she exists and if this horrible thing actually happened to her . . . she did not have to leave Ohio” to receive an abortion.
While every state law that restricts abortions includes an exception for cases where the procedure is necessary to save the life of the mother, a handful of states do lack an exception for pregnancies resulting from rape, which account for less than 1 percent of all abortions performed. There are principled and prudential arguments for and against a rape exception, but none of those arguments should be based on lies. Every media outlet that repeated Bernard’s story before corroborating it has a duty now to find out if it was actually true — and to publicly correct the record if it wasn’t.