Abortion rights protesters gather in the Indiana statehouse.

Indiana Governor Blocks Award for Doctor Who Provided Abortion to 10-Year-Old Rape Victim

In 2022, Indiana doctor Caitlin Bernard performed an abortion on a 10-year-old rape victim. The girl and her parents were forced to travel from Ohio to Indiana for the procedure due to Ohio’s strict abortion restrictions. Not long after, Dr. Bernard was fined $3,000 and received a letter of reprimand from the Indiana Medical Licensing Board. As if that wasn’t enough, she is now out of the running for one of the most prestigious awards in Indiana.

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Dr. Bernard was nominated for the Torchbearer Award, annually given out to Indiana women who have made a positive impact in their communities. The Indiana Commission for Women chooses the recipient each year, but this year there was an interruption in the selection process. In a private meeting after nominations for the award were announced, Governor Eric Holcomb reportedly decided that Dr. Bernard was not an appropriate nominee due to her involvement in a sham dispute with the Medical Licensing Board.

The state of Indiana rejected Dr. Bernard’s nomination for the award, removing her from the running altogether. The reason offered by the Indiana Civil Rights Commission was due to Dr. Bernard’s ongoing conflict with the Indiana Medical Licensing Board, stemming from Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita’s unproven legal accusations against Dr. Bernard and a complaint he filed with the Licensing Board.

There is no rule precluding nominees who are in legal proceedings at the time of their nomination, but that didn’t stop Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb from taking the initiative to block Dr. Bernard’s nomination.

Dr. Bernard is still facing punishment for Rokita’s baseless accusations, and the outcome of her case could have much broader implications for abortion rights across the country. Rokita used Indiana laws regarding patient confidentiality to land Bernard in hot water with the Licensing Board (although she never broke any such laws). A workaround like this could open the floodgates to more attempts at prosecuting abortion providers working well within the parameters of their state’s abortion restrictions (as was the case with Dr. Bernard). One of the most dangerous potential outcomes is the revocation of abortion providers’ medical licenses, which would further limit the availability of abortion in states with strict laws.

As it stands now, Dr. Bernard is still licensed to provide abortions in the state of Indiana pursuant to the state’s existing restrictions. As for Dr. Bernard’s ongoing suit with the Licensing Board, she will likely appeal the Board’s conclusion that she violated state patient privacy laws.

(featured image: Jon Cherry/Getty Images)

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Scout (she/her/hers) is a freelance news writer for The Mary Sue. When not scrolling Twitter, she's thinking about scrolling Twitter. She likes short walks on the beach, glitter pens, and burnt coffee. She does not read the comments.