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UPDATED: Fetal remains at home of former abortion doctor demand an investigation: right to life; Banks, Smith agree

Serena Dyksen, a former abortion patient of the late Dr. Ulrich Klopfer, speaks at a news conference Monday in front of Klopfer's closed clinic on Inwood Drive. Joining her from left were State Sen. Dennis Kruse, State Rep. Christy Stutzman, Dr. Geoff Cly, State Sen. Liz Brown, Indiana Right to Life President Mike Fichter and Allen County Right to Life Executive Director Cathie Humbarger. (News-Sentinel.com photo by Kevin Leininger)
Dr. Ulrich Klopfer (AP photo)

Local right to life officials, state legislators and others on Monday called for an investigation into the discovery of 2,246 fetal remains at the home of a deceased doctor who performed abortions in Fort Wayne for years and legal reforms to prevent a repeat elsewhere.

“This is the sad tale of Dr. Ulrich Klopfer, but it’s not a celebration,” Allen County Right to Life Executive Director Cathie Humbarger said, referring to the Illinois-based doctor who died last week. “Many women are wondering if their child was one” of the many discovered on Klopfer’s property in Joliet following his death Sept. 3.

“We can’t breathe life back into the 2,246 fetal remains but we can demand justice for them,” Humbarger said in front of the building at 2210 Inwood Drive that served as Klopfer’s clinic until it closed in 2013 following the resignation of a backup physician required by county by county law. “We demand closure for the women who had abortions at Klopfer’s facilities.”

One of those women was Serena Dyksen, who said she wonders whether the remains of her daughter was among those discovered at Klopfer’s home. She hopes DNA tests will answer the question, followed by a proper burial.

“We cannot just shake our heads at the horror of this discovery, and then walk away. The time for investigation is now,” Indiana Right to Life President and CEO Mike Fichter said. “To think of these children being preserved, for whatever purposes, is simply sickening.This discovery opens a flood of questions that must be answered.”

Fichter said those question include: Why were these babies preserved and when and where did they die? Did the mothers of these babies know their remains were going to be preserved? Are there other properties owned by Dr. Klopfer where fetal remains may still be found? Were these babies being preserved in order to be sold to universities or research facilities? Are there staff members of Dr. Klopfer’s operations complicit in the preserving and transportation of these remains? Are there other Indiana abortion doctors doing the same thing?

State Sen. Liz Brown, R-15th, joined by State Sen. Dennis Kruse, R-14 and State Rep. Christy Stutzman, R-49, said the discovery at Klopfer’s home was “not a surprise, as disturbing as it was,” and said she and her peers strongly support an investigation.

In a statement, U.S Rep Jim Banks, R-3rd, said “We need to determine how Dr. Klopfer was able to get away with this for so long, and how we only know about it now that Dr. Klopfer is deceased. We also need to know how many people working at the Women’s Pavilion were aware of Dr. Klopfer’s crimes. I also hope we learn if any of those same staff now work at the Whole Women’s Health clinic in South Bend, and how closely those two organizations are tied.”

Tim Smith, Republican candidate for Fort Wayne mayor, also weighed in. In a statement he said he supports “those who are calling for a full investigation into this matter. Authorities must work to find out why and how this happened and what can be done to prevent such an atrocity in the future. If elected Mayor of Fort Wayne I will work to expand access to quality healthcare for women while making sure people like George Klopfer are never allowed to prey on residents of our city again”.

According to the Will County (Ill.) Sheriff’s office, an attorney for Klopfer’s family contacted the coroner’s office about possible fetal remains being found at the home. There was no evidence medical procedures were performed there, and the coroner’s office took possession of the remains.

Klopfer was also a longtime doctor at abortion clinic in South Bend, which closed after the state revoked the clinic’s license in 2015. The Indiana State Department of Health had previously issued complaints against the clinic, accusing it of lacking a registry of patients, policies regarding medical abortion, and a governing body to determine policies.

The state agency also accused the clinic of failing to document that patients get state-mandated education at least 18 hours before an abortion. Klopfer was believed to be Indiana’s most prolific abortion doctor, with thousands of procedures performed in multiple Indiana counties over several decades.

Klopfer’s license was suspended by Indiana’s Medical Licensing Board in November 2016 after the panel found a number of violations, including a failure to ensure that qualified staff was present when patients received or recovered from medications given before and during abortion procedures.

Klopfer was no longer practicing by that time, but he told the panel he had never lost a patient in 43 years of doing abortions and that he hoped to eventually re-open his clinics.

In June 2014, Klopfer was charged in St. Joseph County, Indiana, with a misdemeanor for failure to file a timely public report. He was accused of waiting months to report an abortion he provided to a 13-year-old girl in South Bend. That charge was later dropped after Klopfer completed a pre-trial diversion program.

Republican U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski, R-Indiana, called the discovery of the fetal remains “sickening beyond words” in a statement released by her office.

“He was responsible for thousands of abortions in Indiana, and his careless treatment of human remains is an outrage,” she said in her statement.

In May, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld an Indiana law requiring the burial or cremation of fetal remains following abortions in the state. That law was signed by Vice President Mike Pence in 2016 when he was Indiana’s governor, but it was the subject of legal challenges.

The Indiana State Department of Health, which oversees abortion clinic regulation, has integrated that law’s provisions into the agency’s existing licensing process.

Prior to the ruling, Indiana clinics could turn over fetal remains to processors who handle the disposal of human tissues or other medical material by incineration.

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