Caitlin Bernard, Indiana doctor in the abortion of a 10-year-old girl, was threatened with kidnapping against her daughter


The Indianapolis doctor who helped a 10-year-old rape victim in Ohio get an abortion was forced to stop offering services at a clinic in 2020 after being alerted to a kidnapping threat against her daughter.

And she is currently listed as a ‘threat’ on an anti-abortion website that was linked to Amy Coney Barrett before she was named to the Supreme Court and helped overthrow Roe vs. Wade.

Before the story went viral and an Ohio man was charged with rape in a case that gained international attention, Caitlin Bernard, OB/GYN, was forced to stop providing services abortion at a clinic in South Bend, Ind., in 2020 after Planned Parenthood alerted her to a kidnapping threat made against the doctor‘s daughter that was passed on by the FBI.

“I thought it would be best for me to limit my movement and exposure during this time,” Bernard said in sworn testimony last year, according to the Guardian, which was first to report the news. “I was worried that there would be people who might identify me on this trip, as well as it’s a very small clinic with no privacy for people driving in and out, and so people might see me directly. .”

Kendra Barkoff Lamy, a spokesperson for Bernard, confirmed to The Washington Post on Saturday that “reports regarding threats against Dr. Bernard’s family in 2020 are unfortunately true.”

“These personal and dangerous threats are obviously devastating to her, a board-certified physician who has dedicated her life to the betterment of women and to providing crucial reproductive care, including abortions,” Lamy said in a statement. “Unfortunately, Dr. Bernard is not alone, and it happens to doctors like her who perform abortions across our country.”

Neither Planned Parenthood officials nor the FBI immediately responded to requests for comment early Saturday. Rebecca Gibron, interim CEO of several Planned Parenthood branches, including Indiana, said in a press release that the organization “is committed to providing Dr. Bernard with security services and assistance with legal expenses.”

“We stand in solidarity with Dr. Bernard and all providers who continue to provide compassionate and essential patient care, even in the face of attacks from anti-abortion extremists,” Gibron said.

While details surrounding the reported kidnapping threat remain unclear, Bernard was labeled a “local abortion threat” on a website for Right to Life Michiana, a South Bend-based anti-abortion group. Bernard is one of six doctors whose places of employment and training have been listed for at least the past year on a section of the website titled “Local Abortion Threat: The Abortionist.” Bernard and the other doctors were still listed on the website Saturday.

Jackie Appleman, executive director of Right to Life Michiana, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Saturday. Appleman told the Guardian earlier this year that the listing of Bernard and the other doctors on the group’s website was based on “publicly available information”.

“Right to Life Michiana does not condone or encourage harm, threats, or harassment of anyone, including abortion physicians, abortion business employees, and escorts,” Appleman said. in January. “We encourage pro-choice groups to also embrace our nonviolent approach to the unborn child.”

Right to Life Michiana takes a hardline anti-abortion stance, and Appleman has previously noted that the group supports the criminalization of doctors who perform abortions. The group promotes misinformation about pregnancy and abortion on its website, including the false claim that medical abortions can be “reversed.” Right to Life Michiana touts several sponsors on its website, including the University of Notre Dame, which is in South Bend, and the organization is promoting a fall event with conservative brandon Ben Shapiro as speaker. major.

But the anti-abortion group is perhaps best known for a 2006 newspaper ad opposing “abortion on demand” that Barrett signed when she was a law professor at Notre Dame – an endorsement that seemed to be her first direct public expression regarding her views on abortion.

“We, the following citizens of Michiana, oppose abortion on demand and defend the right to life, from fertilization to natural death,” said the St. Joseph County Right to Life, renamed more later Right to Life Michiana, in the advertisement published in the South Bend Tribune. “It is time to end the barbaric legacy of Roe vs. Wade and restore laws that protect the lives of unborn children.

The group’s advocacy work came under greater scrutiny during Barrett’s Supreme Court confirmation process in 2020, when it was revealed that she had not disclosed her participation in the announcement.

Barrett signed an ad in 2006 denouncing the ‘barbaric legacy’ of Roe v. Wade, advocating the repeal of the law

A Supreme Court spokesperson did not immediately respond to questions sent to Barrett about whether she was still affiliated with the group and whether she supported its tactic of identifying local abortion providers as “threats” and publish biographical information.

The 10-year-old victim’s story was first made public when Bernard told the Indianapolis Star in an article published July 1 that she had been called by a doctor in Ohio about a young patient six weeks pregnant and three days after being raped. The 10-year-old had to travel to Indiana for her procedure because abortions are now banned in Ohio after six weeks.

Although the story quickly gained international attention and was decried by President Biden, it was followed by an outpouring of skepticism from conservative politicians, pundits and the media who expressed doubts. (The Post also published a fact check that initially concluded that the girl’s abortion was a “very difficult story to verify.”)

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Then the Columbus Dispatch reported that Gershon Fuentes, 27, was charged on Wednesday after allegedly confessing to authorities that he raped the 10-year-old on at least two occasions. Columbus Police Detective Jeffrey Huhn said the arrest was made after a referral from Franklin County Children’s Services, who had been in contact with the girl’s mother on June 22, according to the impeachment video – two days before the Supreme Court overturned. deer. The girl had an abortion at an Indianapolis clinic on June 30, Huhn said.

If convicted of first-degree rape, Fuentes could be sentenced to life in prison.

Gershon Fuentes, 27, was arrested on July 13 in Ohio, where he was accused of raping a 10-year-old girl who had to travel to Indiana for an abortion. (Video: Reuters)

Almost immediately after Fuentes was charged, Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita (right) asked Bernard if she had reported the proceedings to state officials. Rokita again raised doubts in a letter to Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb (R) this week, saying his office had requested, but had not received, documents from state agencies indicating that abortion of the girl had been correctly pointed out by Bernard.

But records obtained by The Post on Thursday show that Bernard did report the minor’s abortion to the relevant state agencies before the legally mandated deadline for doing so. The doctor’s attorney, Kathleen DeLaney, sent a cease-and-desist order to Rokita on Friday and said in a statement to news outlets that Bernard is “considering legal action against those who smeared [her].”

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“My client, Dr. Caitlin Bernard, took all appropriate and appropriate actions consistent with the law and her medical and ethical training as a physician,” DeLaney said. “She followed all relevant policies, procedures and regulations in this case, as she does every day to provide the best possible care to her patients.”

News of the previous threat to Bernard’s daughter has shed light on potential violence and criminal incidents against providers and patients. Since 1977, there have been 11 murders, nearly 500 assaults, 42 bombings, 196 arson attacks and thousands of criminal incidents directed against patients, providers and volunteers, according to the National Abortion Federation. , which advocates for access to abortion. According to its latest threat assessment report published in May, the last year has seen a 600% increase in incidents of stalking abortion providers and a 163% increase in the delivery of pranks or suspicious packages compared to to 2020.

Lamy told the Post on Saturday that Bernard was asking for “his family’s privacy.” Bernard took Twitter Friday evening to express her gratitude for the support during what she called “a difficult week” and pledged to “continue to provide health care ethically, lovingly and courageously every day.”

“I hope to be able to share my story soon,” said Bernard.

María Luisa Paúl contributed to this report.

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