SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Thousands of fetal remains that were found at an abortion doctor’s suburban Chicago garage last year were buried Wednesday at an Indiana cemetery.
Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill joined more than 100 people that afternoon at the Southlawn Cemetery by the Palmer Funeral Home in South Bend, Indiana, to pay their respects to the 2,411 fetal remains.
Dr. Ulrich Klopfer, who died Sept. 3 at 79, was one of the Midwest’s most prolific abortion doctors. He performed the abortions from 2000 to 2002 mainly in Indiana — a state with some of the nation’s toughest anti-abortion laws — at clinics in South Bend, Gary and Fort Wayne. He performed tens of thousands of abortions over 40 years, as the only abortion provider in the three cities. Most of the remains were found in the garage of his Illinois home, with others found in one of his vehicles.
Klopfer’s medical license was suspended in 2016 by Indiana regulators who cited shoddy record-keeping and substandard patient monitoring.
“The shocking discovery” of the remains “was horrifying to anyone with normal sensibilities,” Hill said at the ceremony. “Regrettably, there is no shortage of depravity in our world today, including due regard for the most vulnerable among us.”
Hill, a conservative Republican who opposes abortion rights and is seeking re-election, made opening remarks at the ceremony before taking questions from reporters away from the burial site.
He has said his office is investigating the case, but it remains unclear what could be under investigation. A 2016 Indiana law, upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in May, requires abortion providers to bury or cremate fetal remains, but it wasn’t in effect from 2000 to 2002.
Previously, during Klopfer’s career, clinics could turn over fetal remains to processors that dispose of human tissue or other medical material by incineration.
Indiana is one of just a few states with a law mandating burial or cremation of fetal remains after abortions. The law did not take immediate effect because of court challenges after then-Gov. Mike Pence signed it into law in 2016. A U.S. Supreme Court ruling in May upheld the law.
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The remains found in September were each in small plastic medical bags filled with a chemical preservative called formalin. The bags were stored in cardboard boxes. They were later sent to St. Joseph County to be stored.
When asked about the gestation age of the remains, Hill said, “That’s hard to say … There certainly were some indications that some of the remains would have been outside of the appropriate standard of when it would be appropriate for someone to seek an abortion or qualify for an abortion … beyond the first trimester.”
At the burial ceremony, people prayed, sang songs and listened to remarks from anti-abortion rights advocates. Serena Dyksen, 44, of Elkhart, said she came because she had an abortion performed by Klopfer as a teenager, after she was raped. She said her parents took her to have the abortion done.
“Coming here today was just another layer of the healing process,” said Dyksen, who said she has two children, ages 26 and 24. “As post-abortive men and women, sometimes we think we shouldn’t be able to mourn the loss of our children, but it was a loss of life. It doesn’t matter the situation, the age, I still had a mother’s heart.”
“We don’t want to forget what happened,” she added. “There are so many hurting women in our community because of this. This is a place for mothers to come to mourn the loss of their children.”
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The burial plot was donated by the funeral home. .
U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski, R-Jimtown, did not attend the ceremony but released a statement saying, “I am praying for these innocent lives cut short and for all victims of abortion – both unborn babies and their mothers.”
Walorski has sponsored a bill that, similar to Indiana’s 2016 law, would require the burial or cremation of aborted fetal remains.
Hill, seeking a second term as attorney general, has been under scrutiny in recent months over allegations that he drunkenly groped a female state legislator and three other women at an Indianapolis bar in 2018. He has denied the accusations and put his defense of state laws tightening abortion restrictions at the forefront of his campaign.
Two Republicans — Indiana Department of Revenue Commissioner Adam Krupp, a Plymouth native, and Indianapolis attorney John Westercamp — are challenging Hill for the party’s attorney general nomination.
Contributing: Associated Press. Follow Jeff Parrott on Twitter: @JeffHParrott