Doctor’s Cache of Human Remains Shows Moral Cost of Practicing Abortion

Doctor’s cache of human remains shows moral cost of practicing abortion

As I Was Saying is a forum for a variety of perspectives to foster faith-related conversations among our readers with the goal of mutual learning, even in disagreement. Apart from articles written by editorial staff, these perspectives do not necessarily reflect the views of The Banner. This particular column is a commentary from Religion News Service.

(RNS) — By now there’s a good chance you’ve heard of the horrific discovery at the home of the recently deceased abortion provider, Dr. Ulrich “George” Klopfer. His family came across more than two thousand corpses of “medically preserved” prenatal children, most of whom were apparently killed at his South Bend, Indiana, clinic.

These kinds of stories are often covered by local media and get serious attention in pro-life circles — but then, as happened with the similarly disturbing discoveries about the abortion practices of Dr. Kermit Gosnell, major media are slow to catch on to their newsworthiness.

Not so with this story. Major media from The Washington Post, to The New York Times, to USA Today were all over it, and understandably so.

Implicit in the coverage of this story is a single question: What could have possibly led to this physician’s depraved behavior? Were these, as National Review writer Alexandra DeSanctis suggested, “ghastly trophies” of the OB-GYN’s work?

Whatever the explanation, this was clearly the work of someone who had lost contact with his humanity.

A running theme through my new book on the ethic of Pope Francis is how violent acts, like the killing and discarding of a prenatal child, often lead to the killing and discarding of the humanity of those who perform such violence, especially when it is repeated over and over again. Participating in our violent throwaway culture leads to serious moral injury.

Not surprisingly, there were warning signs that Dr. Klopfer might have been heading down a destructive path. In a 2016 public hearing that led to the loss of his medical license, it was revealed that Klopfer had failed to report the rape of a 10-year-old girl, refused to give pain medication to women over 15 years old (until they could “pay extra”) and failed to meet other reporting and documentation standards.

The fact that those who regularly participate in prenatal violence do moral injury to themselves has become an increasingly important focus for the pro-life movement. Abby Johnson, a former abortion clinic manager who became a pro-life activist, for instance, founded a group called “And Then There Were None,” with the goal of helping people leave an industry that so often damages those who participate in it. 

Writing at the Consistent Life blog, Sarah Terzo highlights the effects of “Perpetration-Induced Traumatic Stress” (PITS) in the abortion clinic. She cites the story of “Gail,” who said the following about what repeated viewings of the “little arms and little legs” of prenatal children and wondering “who they would have grown up to be” did to her:

I used to be really happy, loved life, saw beauty everywhere before I started working there. Then, I started working at Planned Parenthood, and I was always sad, always tired, and really depressed … How I felt coming home each day from the abortion center was like a soldier who had come back from war. The emptiness. That’s how I felt. Empty. I don’t believe we were created to see so much death.

It is significant that Gail compares her PITS to that of soldiers. The effect of wartime killing on the killer is so strong that it can even dramatically wound drone operators who perpetrate deadly violence from thousands of miles away.

And one need not stop at war. Similar kinds of PITS happens to those who administer the death penalty. Sometimes participants in a violent throwaway culture don’t need to be actively killing at all in order to sustain substantial moral injury. 

Consider the inhumane treatment of families and children at our southern border. What must it do to someone’s humanity to repeatedly separate desperately screaming children from the arms of their parents? Especially when that child’s suffering is explicitly being used by the administration as a means of immigration deterrence?

It would not be surprising if such actions, over time, produced the kind of moral injury that leads one to discard one’s basic humanity. Perhaps border agents will eventually begin to see migrants as Klopfer saw prenatal children: as less than human. Perhaps they already have: Maybe the bodies of 2,246 tiny human children can end up in jars for the same reason that migrant children can be denied basic sanitation and medical care. In repeatedly discarding the vulnerable, one discards one’s own humanity as well.

The primary focus of our political debates about issues like abortion, migration, war and the death penalty is on the damage done to those at whom the violence is intentionally directed. And that is as it should be. But there are many instructive things to learn from a secondary focus on what happens to agents of violence, especially when they are agents of violence again and again and again.

Doing so can not only help us identify and even predict from where more violence is likely to come, but it can also help us identify what counts as violence in the first place — especially when that violence is hidden by our political commitments.

Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg, who was mayor of South Bend during several of the years Klopfer was practicing abortion there, refuses to see abortion as an act of violence against a vulnerable child.

Holding that position, frankly, may be the only way Buttigieg could respond to Klopfer’s horrific acts by worrying that the story of Klopfer’s store of human remains might “become political.” What other evidence of mass violence, pray tell, does Mayor Pete believe ought not to become a political concern?

The profound moral injury Klopfer received after performing so many abortions over his lifetime should cause South Bend’s mayor — and all those who would prefer to overlook the violence of abortion — to rethink their position.

©. 2019 Religion News Service

The Banner has a subscription to Religion News Service and occasionally re-publishes articles of wide Christian interest, according to the license. The original story can be found here.

(The views expressed in this opinion piece do not necessarily reflect those of Religion News Service.)

About the Author

Charles C. Camosy is associate professor of theological and social ethics at Fordham University and author of Beyond the Abortion Wars.

See comments (7)


Thanks Charles, for this article that clearly demonstrates your penchant or inclination to blame the crimes of a few on the many.  I doubt that very few people, whether pro-life or pro-choice, saw any good in the actions of Dr. Klopfer.  His actions certainly were not typical of or condoned by people of the pro-abortion movement.  In fact those supporting a pro-choice perspective, do so in good conscience, believing they stand on the side of moral justice.  Your comments seem to be comparable to those who would accuse all Muslims as being terrorists because of the actions of a few terrorist Muslims.  Or you imply that Dr. Klopfer has the same mentality as all pro-choice people.  Or your criticism of Mayor Pete Buttigieg would seem to imply that he supports Dr. Klopfer in his immoral actions of collecting the dead corpses of two thousand unborn fetuses that made national news.  Such mentality leads you to ask, “What other evidence of mass violence, pray tell, does Mayor Pete believe ought not to become a political concern?”  Your article and criticism, in my opinion, is totally unfair and supports a narrow and unchristian mentality.

Thanks for reprinting this article, Banner. 

I'm not quite following your analogy to Muslim terrorists, Roger.  Only a FEW Muslims kill innocents to achieve a terrorist effect.  On the other hand ALL abortion providers, by definition, kill preborn children.  The analogy fails, rather dramatically.

I'm also puzzled at your outsized concern that this article promotes an "unchristian mentality" (presumably toward those provide abortion services? or those who support those who provide abortion services?).  I would think the concern, upon reading this article, would be for the preborn babies (and their families) whose lives were intentionally snuffed out by abortion providers, whether or not those providers were as grizzly as the one this article focuses on.

       Thanks Doug, for your comment.  I’m sorry if I wasn’t clear in my comment or that you didn’t understand what I was trying to convey.  I think you may have missed the point of Dr. Klopfer’s crime as reported by the news.  The news media was not criticizing him for committing abortions but rather for “medically preserving” two thousand fetuses that had been aborted.  That is what Charles Camosy, in this article, is calling a “horrific discovery.”  After all, performing abortions is not illegal, nor is it news worthy.
      Charles Camosy is implying that candidate Pete Buttigieg, because he supports legal abortion, is supporting Dr. Klopher’s crime of preserving two thousand aborted fetuses, and therefore is likely also hiding evidence for other mass acts of violence.  This is a totally unfair and unchristian accusation.  Those who support a legal pro-choice position do not support Dr. Klopfer in his crime.  Nor do all Muslims support the terrible acts of terrorism committed by a small minority of Muslims.  Legalized abortion is not a crime in our country (or Canada) and is supported by many Christians.
      You also expressed puzzlement that I might be concerned for those who support legal abortion rights.  I do support a woman’s right to make decisions in regard to an unwanted or unhealthy pregnancy.  I would imagine you somehow believe the only one to have such rights is the fetus or unborn child, as if such fetus has any such capability to make any decision.  In the case of miscarriages (divine abortions) wouldn’t it be God who makes the decision as to whether to terminate life?  So it is not just the fetus who has the right to terminate or preserve such existence.  Maybe you should have an axe to grind with God for not considering such fetus or unborn child in making his decisions.  I hope this comment makes clear what was unclear previously.

I quite disagree with you Roger, as to the point the author is making in this article.  I think his point is that doing abortions (whether you are the doctor or staff) is utterly soul corrupting, and this particular doctor happens to be a splendid example of that corrupting effect.  Thus, the article recalls the effect of someone who worked at Planned Parenthood (Gail), whose life turned dark because of what she did and saw daily at work.

Your suggestion that I should maybe have an axe to grind with God because he is the author of miscarriages is really a bit sad, Roger.  That logic demands we should be OK with post-birth murders as well, since God is the author of cancer and other diseases that take the lives of post-born people.

I understand (even if I disagree with) the political position that mothers carrying babies should have the legal right to kill their child.  In constitutional democracies, people have the right to do all sorts of abhorrent things.  But even if mothers have the right to kill their preborn children, the killing of them is no less abhorant because they do so legally.  And that legality certainly does not suggest that those who assist on those killings (this doctor, Planned Parenthood, Gail) aren't engaging in abhorant killings as well.

You seem to suggest that if abortion is legal, it is therefore not abhorant.  I have always feared that those who support the former conclusion (it should be legal) would because of that also support the latter (it is therefore moral), and what you write seems to suggest you have made that jump.  How am I misreading you?  Or am I?

Doug, you ask how you might be misreading me.  I think on several points.  So this could take a little more space than some may want to read through.  Skip over if you so wish.
You presume that I think if abortion is legal then it is not abhorrent.  You have the cart before the horse here.  The narrow Christian (and dominant) view among conservative Christians is that all abortions are abhorrent therefore should be illegal in all situations (except possibly if the mother’s life is in jeopardy). On the other hand, Pro-choice people believe there may be a number of justifiable reasons to terminate a pregnancy therefore abortion should be legal.  And Christians do not get to pick for our society what may or may not be justifiable.  Get the cart where it belongs.
The reason you and many other Christians believe there should be no exceptions to the “no abortion” rule is that human life is not only valuable but is sacred.  Christian belief is that all humans are created in God’s image, therefore all of human life is “sacred.”  In conservative Christian thought a price or value cannot be put on human life because of the sacred character of such life.  Therefore human fetuses should never be aborted under any circumstance.  This is the conservative Christian perspective that comes from the Bible.  I suspect this is your perspective, as well Doug.
Seeing as our society is not governed by the Bible, although placing a high value on human life, it does not necessarily see human life as sacred.  Therefore an abortion may be warranted in a number of situations.  The high value of human life does not exclude the possible termination of a pregnancy under certain circumstances.  And it is normally the mother who is allowed such decision because she is the closest person to that situation.  So it boils down to human life being a matter of valuable versus sacred for our society.  And because abortion is beneficial in many situations it should be legal.
As to the news story of two thousand abortion remains being medically preserved, the news worthiness of this account by the Washington Post, New York Times, and USA Today was the preservation of these remains, not the abortions themselves.  Charles Camosy, in this article, turned this event into something the news sources never intended by making the crime the abortions themselves.
That I would suggest that God had something to do with (as the ultimate cause of)  miscarriages (divine abortion) may be sad, as you say, but true.  When you introduce a personal God into religion (Christianity) he cannot help but to be involved in the lives of all humans.  By saying he is a personal God and that he cares even about the sparrow falling to the ground, then he could have prevented the untold damage and loss of life caused by Hurricane Dorian or could have prevented the Holocaust. He knew from beforehand what was coming.  And he could have prevented untold numbers of miscarriages from happening but didn’t.  But you have no axe to grind?
I for one am thankful that a woman has a right to terminate a pregnancy when warranted and that there are those who are willing to make such a procedure safe. I wouldn’t want to go back to the days of coat hanger abortions.  So Doug, I do understand your position.  I hope you now understand the position in our country and Canada that makes abortion legal under certain circumstances.

Roger: A doctor by the name of Anthony Levatino has been around for a while, used to be an abortionist, then changed his mind.  His video'd interviews are well worth the watching.  They are at:  (first video is the entire interview, others are pieces of the first).

Dr. Levantino had done about 1200 abortions when he stopped.  He stopped when he finally figured out (see the video) an abortion represented a mother asking him to kill her child for $800 and him saying "yep, I'll do that."

One of the interesting things Dr. Levantino says (its in his interview) is that an abortion virtually never needs to be done for the health of the mother, even if sometimes a child needs to be delivered for the health of the mother.  To him, a professional who did hundreds of abortions, it was riduculous to claim that a child needed to be killed in the uterus in for the sake of the mother's health.

You might want to watch the video'd interview.  It might change you mind as to your suggestion (in your first comment) that "[this] article and criticism, in my opinion, is totally unfair and supports a narrow and unchristian mentality."  Certainly, Dr. Levantino would disagree I think.

Thanks, Doug, for this last comment referencing Dr Levantino.  It looks like you might have caught me in a big blunder.  But wait.  I was only stating our denominational position.  So the mistake comes from within the pro-life movement itself.  I was being gracious enough to give the pro-life movement the one exception they saw as warranting an abortion.  I guess you now have an axe to grind with pro-lifers and pro-abortionists.  The position of our denomination on abortion is easy to look up.  Here’s what I found.  — “Because the CRC believes that all human beings are image-bearers of God, it affirms the unique value of all human life. Mindful of the sixth commandment,"You shall not murder" (Ex. 20:13),the church condemns the wanton or arbitrary destruction of any human being at any stage of its development from the point of conception to the point of death. The church affirms that an induced abortion is an allowable option only when the life of the mother-to-be is genuinely threatened by the continuation of the pregnancy.” — That definitely is a religious statement (“affirmed by the church”), but not necessarily held by those who are not Christian.  So how is the state justified in legally enforcing the religious beliefs of one religion on an entire society?  Does this mean there should be laws prohibiting all unnecessary killing of all life, including insects, in keeping with the pantheistic religious views of Hindus and other religions?  In the eyes of our society there are many reasons to terminate a pregnancy beyond the health of the mother.  Thanks, Doug, for your engagement on this timely topic.