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I thought I had lost the capacity to be shocked and disgusted by Attorney General Todd Rokita’s grandstanding in lieu of doing his job, but over the last week, he managed to sink to even lower depths.
On July 1, the Indy Star reported on the horrific story of a 10-year-old child in Ohio who became pregnant after being raped. Due to Ohio’s draconian new abortion law, this child had to travel to Indianapolis to seek an abortion.
Dr. Caitlin Bernard provided care to this little girl and spoke to Indy Star reporters about this injustice in part as a warning of the potential consequences of new abortion restrictions in Indiana. Conservative media and politicians spent the last two weeks calling into question the veracity of Dr. Bernard’s account, with the Wall Street Journal suggesting it was a “fanciful tale,” Fox News commenters calling it a hoax, and Republican Congressman Jim Jordan from Ohio calling the story “another lie”. Not a single reporter, pundit or politician offered any evidence for their claims. None.
I don’t blame these pundits and politicians for wishing the story was fake. The trauma this child faced is horrific. Unfortunately, as has been confirmed by an arrest made on July 12 in her rape, the story is all too real.
Now that the story has been corroborated, rather than apologize to Dr. Bernard for impugning her character, Fox News brought on Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita to call Dr. Bernard “an abortion activist acting as a doctor,” accuse her of criminal activity and threaten to revoke her medical license. He went on to make accusations that Dr. Bernard did not file the appropriate paperwork, accusations which a cursory records request would shortly prove false.
His comments are nothing short of bullying and incitement against a medical professional in the state he was elected to serve. He is using his platform to tell Indiana’s doctors that they will be hunted and antagonized for doing their job.
Abortions are still legal in Indiana, whether Attorney General Rokita likes it or not. Dr. Bernard treated her patient with compassion and competence, fully within the confines of the law, and very well may have saved that little girl’s life.
What is going to happen in the future when a doctor in Indiana provides an abortion to a woman when in her professional, medical judgment, this care is necessary to save the woman’s life? How close to death does a woman have to be before it is safe for a physician to provide this care without fear of reprisal from the chief legal officer of the state? Is Attorney General Rokita, with all the medical knowledge he gained from never going to medical school, going to continue to punish doctors for saving their patients’ lives and their wellbeing? How can anyone do their jobs when our state’s top lawyer puts ego above law and makes it clear that the rules don’t matter—only his feelings?
The message Todd Rokita is sending is clear. No reproductive health measures short of mandatory birth for every woman and child who becomes pregnant will ever be legitimate in the eyes of the Attorney General. No matter the risk, no matter the trauma suffered.
I sincerely hope that my Republican colleagues will not take this point of view when we in the General Assembly decide the future of reproductive rights in Indiana in the upcoming special session.
Unfortunately, as Republicans negotiate how to extend this extreme government overreach behind closed doors and refuse to respond to questions on this issue, it is unclear if the vast majority of Republican legislators share Rokita’s view. Given that they are insistent on rolling back these fundamental rights, I hope at least they will consider strong measures to protect women who are victims of rape and sexual assault and women who will face serious adverse medical consequences from their pregnancy.
I believe in the fundamental right of a woman to make all health care decisions for her own body and future without government interference. The only way to ensure the health and safety of women in Indiana is by leaving these decisions to a woman and her doctor, not to let state officials bully their way to a decision that only benefits themselves.