Remembering the 2,246 discovered at Dr. Ulrich Klopfer’s home
On Thursday, September 12, members of the late Dr. Ulrich “George” Klopfer’s family found 2,246 fetal remains—that is to say, human remains—at his home in the unincorporated Will County, Illinois.
The former South Bend abortion provider died on September 3, 2019. Klopfer had been providing abortions since Roe v. Wade legalized the procedure nationwide, in 1973. The last of his clinics closed in November of 2015, and he lost his license to practice in August of 2016. The Women’s Pavilion in South Bend, open since 1978, shut down in March 2016, a few months after Klopfer’s license was revoked.
It has become increasingly clear that Klopfer, who faced multiple charges even before 2016, rivals the legacy of Gosnell for abject disregard for the human life of his patients and their children. And while we could go on to describe the multitude of past violations and accusations against the disgraced physician, the latest discovery ought to remain the one in front of our eyes.
Rep. Jackie Walorski called the reports “sickening beyond words.” She continued: “This tragic case shows why abortion providers must be held to strict guidelines and face rigorous oversight.” On September 17, Saint Joseph County Right to Life hosted a press conference to demand a thorough investigation into Klopfer and the clinics he operated. A past patient of Dr. Klopfer, Serena Dyksen, spoke at the conference. She recieved an abortion from Klopfer when she was thirteen years old, after she was raped. “I feel like I have been violated all over again,” Dyksen said on learning of the hoarded remains: “now for the third time.” Ms. Dyksen has called for a full investigation, and for DNA testing that might match the children to their parents, if mothers wish to give them a proper burial.
It is worth restating the reality of this report. An abortion provider in the South Bend community, who had begun these services when Roe was handed down, performed tens of thousands of abortions in his over-four-decade career. He failed to properly dispose of the remains of thousands of those procedures, choosing instead to organize and hoard at least two thousand, two hundred, and forty six fetal remains.
I cannot help but reel at the fact that it took over fifteen years to find the evidence of Dr. Ulrich Klopfer’s crimes. I cannot help but grieve the lives of the 2,246 members of my South Bend community that could have been my neighbors, my peers, and my classmates. My heart breaks as I recoil at the trophies that Klopfer chose to make out of those 2,246 remains – remains I will see as human bodies that held human lives.
Is this enough to shock us into action? The images that float to the front of my mind, of the fragile hands and tiny hearts shut in bags or boxes and forgotten, marked with numbers rather than names, is sickening. The lives that I see, of people who would now be my age, my siblings’ ages, shatter something deep in me. I want to choose to look away.
If this is not enough, what would be? I wanted my day to go on as I planned. I didn’t have the time, I thought, to stop, to grieve, and to sit with the reality of the thousands of lives, known and unknown, lost at the hands of Dr. Klopfer. But we must stop. We must grieve. As National Review staff writer (and Rover alum) Alexandra DeSanctis wrote: “we saw, and we know.” We must sit with this reality that it is millions of lives that have been lost at the hands of abortion providers.
We know that something has happened in our community, and like it or not, we cannot live as if it has not. We cannot, as presidential candidate and city mayor Pete Buttigieg requested when asked for comment, “hope it doesn’t get caught up in politics.” This is not a distant or artificial reality: these are actual lives lost, real women hurt, right down the street. They were here, and now they are not. What political framework, what oversight, made it possible for a man like Klopfer to do this?
On September 20, University President Fr. John Jenkins, C.S.C. released a statement on the discovered remains, calling them “a grisly reminder that the moral logic of abortion leads in practice to barbarism.” I am grateful for his condemnation, and can only hope that the University will continue to be reminded of this reality beyond this brief news cycle.
Will we just shudder, shake our heads, and turn away? It might be easier to keep these lives at a distance, and comment instead on what feels sterile enough to discuss without emotional engagement.
But are we able to let this reality slap us as it ought to? Maybe then we can allow these lives, and the barbarism that ended them, to shake us hard enough, creating space for real and lasting change to begin to fill the place in this world those children ought to have occupied.
Maggie Garnett is a sophomore studying theology and Constitutional Studies, and a lifelong resident of South Bend. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.