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Colleague defends the doctor who was attacked by politicians and media after treating a 10-year-old rape victim: ‘I have watched all this in horror’

A demonstrator holds a placard saying “My Body My Choice” as they gather at the Sample Gates at Indiana University to rally in support of womens reproductive rights, in Bloomington.

Jeremy Hogan/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

  • An OB-GYN in Indiana spoke publicly about treating a 10-year-old rape victim from Ohio. 
  • Dr. Caitlin Bernard was attacked by media organizations and politicians who said her story was fake.
  • Colleagues have come to her defense but worry they will face the same fate if they speak out.

A doctor has come to the defense of a colleague who treated a 10-year-old rape victim from Ohio after some media organizations and politicians labeled her a liar.

Dr. Caitlin Bernard, an OB-GYN in Indiana, provided abortion care to the young patient, who traveled there from Ohio because of restrictions in her home state.

In Ohio, abortions are restricted after 6 weeks. The child was 6 weeks and 3 days pregnant, according to the Indianapolis Star.

After Bernard shared her story with the newspaper, she was attacked by The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board and politicians like South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem, who tweeted the story was “fake to begin with.” Fox News broadcast an image of Bernard and a host from the network said the story was fabricated.

Even though Bernard’s story was corroborated by The Columbus Dispatch, which reported the rapist’s arrest, Ohio’s attorney general said he plans to conduct an investigation.

Now, Bernard’s colleague, Dr.Tracey Wilkinson, an assistant professor of pediatrics at Indiana University School of Medicine, is defending her in an essay in The New York Times. 

Wilkinson said she’s terrified that she or any of her colleagues “could soon face what Dr. Bernard is going through” after delivering care to their patients. According to Wilkinson, the attention has led to concerns for Bernard’s safety and the local police are now involved. 

She said when talking about reproductive health care, doctors like to include patient stories to “humanize the often complex legal and medical concepts” for the public. Wilkinson adds that Bernard’s story about the 10-year-old child does that by providing an example of how abortion bans impact the most vulnerable.

In light of the Supreme Court overturning Roe v Wade, medical providers in states where abortion has been restricted are in a challenging situation. In reference to what happened to Bernard, Wilkinson writes, “my colleagues and I have watched all this in horror. We are worried that this could happen to us, too.”

While abortion is legal in Indiana, lawmakers are expected to impose strict rules, which could include a total ban, in a special session in the legislature at the end of this month.

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