An Indiana obstetrician-gynecologist, who documents show provided an abortion to a 10-year-old rape victim from Ohio, spoke about the impacts of abortion restrictions in a CBS News exclusive Tuesday night.
In an interview with “CBS Evening News” anchor and managing editor Norah O’Donnell, Dr. Caitlin Bernard shared what it has been like being thrown into the national spotlight as abortion access faces new restrictions from state lawmakers.
“I think we’re at a time in our country where people are starting to realize the impact of these anti-abortion laws,” Bernard said.
“This has been going on for a long time, becoming harder and harder in many states for people to access abortion,” she said. “And now when it’s finally become impossible for some people, we’re realizing what that is going to look like, what the real-life implications are for people who need abortion care. I think people realize that that is actually not what they intended. That is not what they want for children, for women, to be put in these situations of life-threatening conditions, of traumatic pregnancies. They realize that abortion needs to be safe and legal.”
When the story of the 10-year-old from Ohio went public, some news outlets and politicians expressed doubt that the story was true.
Dr. Bernard was asked about the initial doubts made about the case and the extent to which young girls need abortions.
“Unfortunately, sexual assault in children is not uncommon,” Bernard responded. “I’m not the only provider who has taken care of young children needing abortion care.”
“Come spend a day in my clinic. Come see the care that we provide every single day. The situations that people find themselves in, and in need of abortion care are some of the most difficult that you could imagine,” she told O’Donnell. “And that’s why we, as physicians, need to be able to provide that care unhindered, that medical decisions need to be made between a physician and their patients.”
Bernard publicly shared the story of the 10-year-old rape victim’s abortion in an interview with the Indianapolis Star earlier this month. The 10-year-old girl had been impregnated when she was raped by a 27-year-old in Ohio and traveled to Indiana to get an abortion due to Ohio banning abortions after six weeks following the U.S. Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade.
An Ohio man was arrested earlier this month after police said he confessed to raping the 10-year-old girl on at least two occasions.
Since the story gained widespread attention, Bernard said she has received threats.
“It shows how, you know, abortion, instead of being part of health care, which it is… a needed, life-saving procedure, which it is, has been used to create a wedge between people politically and personally. And it shows how far we have come and how sad that is,” she said.
When asked how she would respond to those who are against abortion and believe it is immoral, Bernard said their religious beliefs should not impede access to medical care for others.
“What I would say is if you don’t believe that you would have an abortion, then don’t have one,” she said. “You cannot stop other people from accessing medical care that they need based on your personal religious beliefs. You would never want somebody to do that to you.”
Bernard’s attorney also told CBS News that the office of Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita reached out for the first time Tuesday, weeks after he announced that his office would investigate the doctor.
Kathleen DeLaney, Bernard’s attorney, told CBS News that indicates the investigation is in the “very early days since our first notice was today.” She added, “it’s unclear to us the nature of the investigation and what authority he has to investigate Dr. Bernard.”
Dr. Bernard has filed a tort claim against Rokita, the first step in a defamation lawsuit against the Republican attorney general.
“Mr. Rokita’s false and misleading statements about alleged misconduct by Dr. Bernard in her profession constitute defamation,” said DeLaney in a statement released when the tort claim was filed last week.