Caitlin Bernard/Ob-Gyn Performs an Abortion for a 10-Year-Old Rape Victim
We devote this month to Caitlin Bernard, the OB-Gyn from Indiana who has bravely spoken out about the 10-year-old victim of rape for whom she performed an abortion after the girl was denied one in her home state of Ohio.
Caitlin’s Strengths–True Courage, Social Justice, Persistence
Caitlin’s story is now receiving attention both because of the threats she is facing as a result of her decision to bring this story to the national stage and because she is inspiring others to speak out as well. The threats are real both to her family and to her professional credibility. For example, like many people who take a public stance on this, she has been receiving menacing phone calls that have made her fear for her safety and that of her family.
In addition, the Indiana State Attorney General, Todd Rokita, is actively charging her with fabricating the rape accusation even after the actual perpetrator was arrested for the crime and is implying that she is not medically qualified to do her work. She is filing a defamation lawsuit against him as a result but he continues to make false statements about her credibility and to threaten her license to practice.
Her courage is not abstract. Because of these very consequential threats, her persistence and unwillingness to back down shows that her courage is real, it is in action, it is resolute.
A Personal Backstory on Caitlin
We have a personal backstory on Caitlin because Rebecca met her in NYC in 2017 while she was visiting her little sister Julia in NYC. Julia invited their cousin Sukey who lives in the city over for dinner and Sukey brought along Caitlin, a cousin from the other side of her family. Caitlin held them all captive as she recounted the rewarding but challenging work she’d done in Kenya helping women access safe reproductive healthcare in a country where abortion was illegal.
A Chilling Harbinger
Caitlin was in transition at that time, moving from St. Louis, where she’d finished her medical training, to Indiana. Rebecca distinctly remembers a dramatic moment that, looking back, was a chilling harbinger to this time in our history.
When Caitlin was explaining why she was going to Indiana, she shared that she had deliberately chosen a state with few abortion providers because, after her experience in Kenya, she wanted to go where access to adequate reproductive healthcare was more tenuous. At the time, we all breathed a sigh of relief that even though it might be difficult in some States, at least it was protected by Roe vs Wade. On the other hand, we all felt an underlying uneasiness that, in the political climate that we’ve been in, we couldn’t take anything for granted. But surely not Roe vs. Wade…
Tattoo of a Coat Hanger on Her Foot
Caitlin clearly met the call to provide for women and girls who cannot easily access the help they want and need. Not surprising–she comes from long line of activists and takes on the mantle of being a fearless social justice warrior for reproductive rights without blinking an eye. She identifies so much with the cause that she has a tattoo of a coat hanger on her foot–the symbol that is forever associated with the desperate measures women had to take before abortion became legal—along with the line “Trust Women.”
Caitlin is Still in Jeopardy
Sadly, in a testimony to the danger of a professional in her role taking a public stand about the very real consequences of the reversal of Roe vs. Wade, both Caitlin’s life and her work are in danger. This has meant that she has to retract from some of her activism in order to protect herself and her family and she is still being faced with legal challenges around the case of the 10 year-old girl.
Go Fund Me for Caitlin’s Ongoing Legal Defense
If you are compelled to help Caitlin continue to fight this personal and professional battle, we have a link here to a GoFundMe campaign that was initiated by other healthcare professional to support the ongoing legal cases she is having to face.
Links to Learn More About This Story:
- New York Times Story by Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Ava Sasani
- Washington Post Story by Timothy Bella
- CBS Interview with Norah O’Donnell
- NPR interview on Morning Edition With Sarah McCammom and Leila Fadel
- CNN Report
- New York Op Ed from Caitlin’s Colleague Tracey Wilkinson (no relation to Rebecca)
For the Artists Activists: Campaign Coathanger
Also, for the activists out there, especially the ones who believe in art as a form of protest, we alert you to a gorilla art project called Campaign Coathanger.
To Those of Our Readers Who Do Not Agree with Our Stance on Reproductive Rights
A final note–we recognize that not all of our readers agree with our stance on this issue and we truly welcome any civil discourse on the matter. Nevertheless, we share Caitlin’s call to social justice and feel compelled to speak on this in the manner that our conscience guides us.