More fetal remains found as probe of late doctor continues
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The discovery of more than 2,400 sets of fetal remains in the Illinois garage and a car owned by a late doctor who performed abortions in Indiana for decades has left authorities in the two states trying to figure out what happened, if any laws were broken, and why he held onto the remains.
Here’s a look at some of the questions the case has raised:
WHERE DID THE REMAINS COME FROM?
Investigators have determined that all 2,411 sets of fetal remains found at the two locations were from abortions that Dr. Ulrich Klopfer — who was believed to be Indiana’s most prolific abortion doctor — performed between 2000 and 2002 at his abortion clinics in Fort Wayne, Gary and South Bend. The Fort Wayne clinic closed in 2014, and the Gary and South Bend clinics closed the following year.
WHERE WERE THEY FOUND?
After Klopfer died on Sept. 3 at age 79, relatives found medically preserved fetal remains in the garage at his Will County, Illinois, home and alerted authorities, who found 2,246 sets of remains in that cluttered building. On Wednesday, authorities found another 165 sets of fetal remains in the trunk of a Mercedes-Benz parked at a business property in Dolton, Illinois, where Klopfer had kept eight cars. Those remains are believed to be from abortions Klopfer performed in 2002, Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill said Friday.
WHO IS INVESTIGATING?
Hill’s office is working with Illinois’ Democratic attorney general, Kwame Raoul, to investigate the discovery of the fetal remains. In addition to finding the remains, investigators found thousands of patient medical records abandoned at Klopfer’s former clinics and other associated Indiana properties that were raided. The investigation is complicated by the fact that the abortions occurred nearly 20 years ago and by uncertainties such as the dates the fetal remains were moved and what Indiana’s laws were at those points in time.
DID KLOPFER’S RELATIVES KNOW HE WAS KEEPING REMAINS?
Kevin Bolger, a Chicago attorney for Klopfer’s widow, said Friday that the family has no comment on the most recent discovery of remains. He had said after the discovery of the remains in the garage that Klopfer’s widow and other relatives were shocked by what they found and had “no clue” the remains had been there. Bolger and Hill have said that Klopfer’s family is cooperating fully with the investigation.
WHO WAS KLOPFER?
Klopfer performed abortions for several decades at his now-shuttered clinics, and Hill said Friday that it’s believed that Klopfer performed tens of thousands of abortions during his career. Hill, a conservative Republican who opposes abortion rights, has said previously that Klopfer had a record of maintaining “deplorable conditions” and violating regulatory controls at his clinics. Klopfer’s medical license was suspended in 2016 after state investigators found that he had failed to do things such as ensuring that a qualified staff member was present when patients received or recovered from medications given before and during abortion procedures.
DID KLOPFER OR ANYONE ELSE BREAK THE LAW?
That remains unclear. As far as storing fetal remains, the law is murky. For one, Klopfer was performing abortions before a 2016 Indiana law requiring that aborted fetal remains be cremated or buried. Previously, clinics had the option of sending those remains for incineration along with other human tissues and medical waste. The 2016 law also made it a crime to take fetal remains across state lines. However, the law didn’t take effect until a U.S. Supreme Court ruling this year. If Klopfer transported the remains after that ruling, he would have committed a misdemeanor that carries a maximum penalty of one year in jail.
Although Klopfer is dead, Hill said part of his office’s investigation will seek to determine whether any other licensed professionals were aware that the remains were moved from Indiana to Illinois and if they had a hand in moving them.
WHAT WILL HAPPEN TO THE REMAINS:
The remains found in the garage have been returned to Indiana, where they are being stored by the St. Joseph County coroner’s office in South Bend. Hill has said that those remains will be “given the decency of a burial that they deserve.” He said Friday that the remains found in Klopfer’s car will also be returned to Indiana and will “receive a respectful final disposition here in Indiana.”