“I hope elected leaders in Indiana reconsider and do what is right for my patients,” said Dr Bernard
A bill to outlaw abortion at nearly all stages of pregnancy is nearing its final passage in Indiana’s state legislature, marking one of the first states to consider severe restrictions on abortion care in the weeks after the US Supreme Court revoked the constitutional right to abortion.
Dr Cailtin Bernard – an Indianapolis-area obstetrician-gynecologist who came under attack following reporting that she performed an abortion on a 10-year-old rape survivor from Ohio after that state’s abortion ban went into effect – said she is “deeply disturbed” by her state’s bill, which she said will harm her patients and worsen health outcomes in the state.
“I’ve practiced medicine for 12 years and follow a code of ethics, so I know that medicine is not about exceptions,” she said in a statement through her attorney on 3 August.
“Every person deserves to have equal access to the best medical care as they make decisions about their health and elected politicians should not be the ones making those decisions,” she said. “This bill will hurt my patients and Hoosiers are going to have worse health outcomes as a result.”
Indiana lawmakers are considering Republican-drafted legislation to outlaw nearly all abortions with limited exceptions. A draft cleared a key House committee following several hours of debate on 2 August and is expected to advance to the full state House within the week.
A state Senate version of the bill passed over the weekend. The bill allows exceptions only in pregnancies from rape or incest or when the patient’s life is at risk. Indiana currently allows for abortions up to about 20 weeks of pregnancy.
State lawmakers in Indiana and West Virginia are currently advancing bills to restrict abortion care in the wake of America’s first statewide referendum on abortion rights in Kansas, where a clear majority of voters “voted to affirm that women should have the right to make decisions about their own bodies and that those decisions are between them and their medical providers,” Dr Bernard said.
“On behalf of the Hoosiers I care for each and every day, I hope elected leaders in Indiana reconsider and do what is right for my patients,” she added.
Neighboring Ohio – among at least 10 states that do not provide any exceptions for abortions from pregnancies resulting from rape or incest – enacted its law prohibiting abortion at the detection of a so-called “heartbeat” at roughly six weeks of pregnancy. Notably, that period of time is before many patients know they are pregnant, or about two weeks after a missed period. The 10-year-old rape victim in Dr Bernard’s care was reportedly six weeks pregnant.
“All states have people who are pregnant who need abortion care, in the most extreme circumstances and in the most common circumstances, and everyone deserves to have access to comprehensive reproductive healthcare in a state in which they live,” she told The Independent last month.
A suspect in the Ohio case has been arrested and charged with two counts of felony rape. He remains held without bond in Franklin County Jail. He has pleaded not guilty.
Meanwhile, the National Right to Life organisation, the nation’s largest anti-abortion group, and its Indiana affiliate have argued that the state’s legislation does not go far enough.
The bill “goes through the motions on paper, but lacks any teeth to actually reduce abortions in Indiana by holding those who perform abortions or would intentionally skirt the law accountable with criminal consequences,” Indiana Right to Life said in a statement.