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Dr. Caitlin Bernard speaks out on "real-life implications" of abortion bans: "Come spend a day in my clinic"

Doctor at center of abortion debate speaks out
Doctor at center of abortion debate speaks out 03:58

Dr. Caitlin Bernard, an Indianapolis obstetrician-gynecologist who was thrown into the national spotlight after a 10-year-old rape victim traveled from Ohio to Indiana for an abortion, said the case has made people recognize the impact of laws restricting abortions. 

According to Indiana records, Bernard is the doctor who provided a medication-induced abortion to the 10-year-old on June 30. Due to privacy laws, she's unable to confirm that. 

"I think we're at a time in our country where people are starting to realize the impact of these anti-abortion laws," Bernard told "CBS Evening News" anchor and managing editor Norah O'Donnell in an exclusive television interview on Tuesday. 

"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 asked how often she receives calls from out-of-state doctors about young women who have been raped and need an abortion, Bernard said, "unfortunately, sexual assault in children is not uncommon." 

"I'm not the only provider who has taken care of young children needing abortion care," she said. 

Earlier this month, Bernard gave an interview to the Indianapolis Star about the 10-year-old rape victim after Ohio's near-total abortion ban went into effect following the Supreme Court's reversal of Roe v. Wade. The state's law bans abortions from the time a fetus' cardiac activity can be detected, which is typically around six weeks of pregnancy. 

Prominent Republicans questioned Bernard's account and accused her of lying. Attorney General Todd Rokita said he would investigate whether Bernard violated child abuse notification or abortion reporting laws, as well as federal medical privacy laws for speaking to the Indianapolis Star about the case. Indiana law requires doctors to report abortions performed on girls younger than 16 within three days of the procedure. Bernard submitted her report about the girl's abortion on July 2, according to records obtained by CBS News. 

Rokita's office reached out to Bernard's office for the first time Tuesday, CBS News has learned. 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."

Since the initial doubt from some, a 27-year-old Ohio man has been charged with raping the girl. 

"Come spend a day in my clinic," Bernard said when asked about those who accused her of fabricating the story. "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. 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, who told O'Donnell she has felt threatened, moved to sue Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita for defamation, saying he made false statements about her after the June 30 case came to light. 

Bernard also said the Supreme Court's decision overturning Roe v. Wade will have ramifications for other reproductive health care, not just abortions, that could endanger women's lives.

"When you take away the right to privacy in your medical decision-making, it puts you in a situation where you don't know where to turn," she said. "And it makes it incredibly difficult, not just to provide abortion care, but full-spectrum reproductive health care. You know, this will affect our ability to take care of miscarriages. This will affect our ability to take care of complications in early pregnancy that could kill someone. This will affect our ability to provide infertility treatment, contraception, the list goes on."

Asked what she would say to those who believe abortion is immoral, Bernard said their personal religious beliefs should not impede on others' access to medical care. 

"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." 

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