Dr Ulrich Klopfer
The man who was probably Indiana’s most experienced abortionist, Ulrich Klopfer, was hardly an attractive advertisement for his profession when he was alive. But after his death on September 3, he has become the Chernobyl of reputation management.
Dr Klopfer, an osteopath, began doing abortions shortly after the US Supreme Court’s Roe vs Wade decision. During his long career he probably did “tens of thousands of procedures in multiple counties over several decades,” according to the Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette. The state of Indiana eventually barred him from practicing in 2016 because of sloppy record-keeping and failing to follow best practice.
The worst, though, was saved for last. When his wife and her sister went trawling through his property after his death they found the medically preserved remains of 2,246 foetuses. Details are still sketchy. According to the New York Times, “It was unclear how the fetuses were preserved, where on Dr. Klopfer’s property they were discovered or where exactly the property was”.
There’s a back story to Dr Klopfer’s bizarre hoard. “Reproductive health” organisations and pro-life supporters in the US have been warring over the disposal of foetal remains for years.
Reproductive health advocates claim that requiring the burial or cremation of aborted foetuses contributes to the shame and stigma of abortion, apart from increasing the administrative burden and the cost of abortions.
But what actually happens to the “products of conception” which remain after abortions? There were 862,320 abortions in the United States in 2017. Many of them are flushed down toilets or discarded with medical waste. Do the mothers know about that?
Some foetuses, it turns out, are sold to medical researchers. In a 2015 sting operation, the Center for Medical Progress filmed staff of Planned Parenthood as they were apparently negotiating with potential buyers of aborted baby body parts to be used in research. These revelations made the disposal of foetal remains even more problematic.
So it came as no surprise when the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced in June that it would no longer fund research using foetal tissue. “Promoting the dignity of human life from conception to natural death is one of the very top priorities of President Trump’s administration,” the HHS declared. “Intramural research that requires new acquisition of fetal tissue from elective abortions will not be conducted.”
Foetal remains even played a role in Trump's election. In 2016 then-Governor of Indiana Mike Pence signed the House Enrolled Act 1337, a law which mandated the cremation or burial of all foetal remains, even if they came from a miscarriage. (This came too late to have had any effect upon the size of Dr Klopfer’s hoard, of course.) The Act was used to lash Pence as an extreme, misogynistic pro-lifer when he became Trump’s vice-presidential running mate.
The National Network of Abortion Funds called it “one of the most vicious omnibus anti-abortion bills the United States has ever seen”. The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals blocked the Act from coming into effect.
But earlier this year, in Box vs Planned Parenthood, the US Supreme Court declared that Indiana was within its rights to determine how foetal remains should be treated. Pence’s law had become a milestone in America’s abortion wars.
With all this on the back burner, why have the American media showed so little interest? David Mastio, deputy editorial page editor of USA TODAY, complained that many questions remain unanswered:
How does a doctor amass enough dead bodies in his garage to do a passable imitation of a World War II mass grave? Didn’t his employees notice he was taking home baby parts? How does a story this sensational — that happens to have partly taken place in presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg’s hometown, where he's the mayor — not get more than cursory attention from the national news media? Now there’s a question.
Naturally, the “reproductive health” industry has tried to ignore the Klopfer scandal. It's a bit off-key in the symphony of reproductive rights. Neither Planned Parenthood nor NARAL has commented on it. To her credit, Alys Brooks, of Rewire News, was brave enough to pick up the gauntlet. Her riposte was that Dr Klopfer was an “outlier”. Other journalists noted his unhappy childhood — as a boy, he lived through the horror of the fire-bombing of Dresden.
Not good enough. No doubt Dr Klopfer was a “lone wolf”. No doubt most of his colleagues prefer breeding guppies or collecting stamps to hoarding foetuses. But when white nationalist Patrick Crusius shot dead 22 people in El Paso, another journalist at Rewire News made a shrewd observation:
Thinking of these killers as “lone wolf” actors makes it easier to dismiss them as demented individuals, hapless victims of bad parenting, self-destructive misfits, or erratic evil doers. It also makes it easier to believe that “it can’t happen here,” or that it only happens to “other people.” Instead, we need to see these so-called “lone wolf” white supremacists for what they are—members of “wolf packs.” Seeing these shooters as members of a “wolf pack” reveals that we are up against more than meets the eye.
This is precisely the argument which justifies more regulation of abortion providers, and in particular, for requiring the burial or cremation of foetal remains. We may be up against far more than meets the eye when we witness one abortionist's kinky perversion.
A local Indiana Congresswoman, Jackie Walorski, has vowed to introduce legislation so that foetal remains would be treated with respect:
Every human life is precious, and every woman and baby deserves care and respect. This tragic case shows why abortion providers must be held to strict guidelines and face rigorous oversight. I will be looking into federal legislation to ensure the remains of aborted babies are always treated with dignity, including in the case of chemical abortions.
Amen to that.
Michael Cook is editor of MercatorNet