Dr. Caitlin Bernard did what any dedicated doctor would do when faced with a medical emergency: Provide care. That is what she did for a 10-year-old rape victim, who could not obtain an abortion in Ohio, her home state, because she had missed the state’s six-week abortion deadline. This traumatized child had to travel to Indiana to access the medication abortion June 30.
This case, which made national news following an Indianapolis Star story July 1, became a political football for reactionaries whose goal is to abolish all abortions. The Supreme Court’s June 24 overturn of the Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortions has emboldened anti-abortion extremists, whose violent history includes murder of abortion providers.
Fox News, the Wall Street Journal and conservative politicians and pundits, called the story a “hoax” meant to bolster the pro-choice movement. Ohio Attorney General Dave Jost joined the chorus.
The Columbus Dispatch July 13 reported a suspect had confessed to the rape. It was no hoax. But no apologies came.
Then reactionaries fiercely attacked Dr. Bernard for telling the child’s story. Allegations arose that she did not file obligatory reports about the abortion or rape. Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita has threatened to investigate Dr. Bernard for not submitting these documents, but the New York Times verified they were filed.
The ultraright has targeted Dr. Bernard before. She had to stop providing abortions at a clinic in South Bend, Indiana, after hostile forces threatened to kidnap her daughter. Her name is on a list of doctors at Right to Life Michiana, an anti-abortion website that was tied to Amy Coney Barrett before her Supreme Court appointment.
Dr. Bernard is courageous and principled, as are medical staff and clinic workers countrywide who provide abortions in the face of rabid opposition. Reactionaries seek to criminalize and punish everyone involved in providing or accessing abortions — and ultimately, to enforce a national abortion ban — even though the majority of U.S. residents support this right. Those who prevent children, the most vulnerable among us, from getting essential medical care, are the real criminals.