Will County abortion doctor had more than 2,000 fetal remains at his home. Authorities need help investigating.
Authorities are encouraging women who might be linked to fetal remains found at an abortion doctor's home in Illinois to come forward.
The remains will be given to the Indiana Attorney General's Office for further investigation, since an investigation by Will County in northeastern Illinois is finished, according to Will County Sheriff Mike Kelley.
Will County Attorney General James Glasgow said Indiana's state attorney general's office has indicated that it wants people to call it. Glasgow said Illinois authorities will work with Indiana officials should past patients come forward.
"Even though the clinics are in Indiana, some of these people could've lived in Illinois at the time, so we have a connection," he said. "Obviously, if the crime is committed in Indiana, they would be the appropriate prosecuting authority, but we probably could assist them."
Kelley said that more than 2,246 medically preserved fetal remains were located at the home of deceased abortion doctor Ulrich "George" Klopfer. Klopfer died September 3 of what authorities said were natural causes.
Kelley and Glasgow said the remains date from 2000 to 2002, which coincides with the time Klopfer would have been performing abortions in Indiana. Glasgow determined that paperwork and science helped determine the age of the fetal remains.
Because Klopfer is deceased, Glasgow emphasized that no criminal charges could be filed even though the late doctor did not adhere to Indiana law in the disposal of fetal remains.
If a "victim" were underage at the time of her abortion and the person who impregnated her was not, that person could be guilty of statutory rape, Glasgow said. "Because of the age of the remains, I don't know if that would be possible under Indiana law or not," he said, adding that there was no further criminal inquiry in Illinois.
More than 50 detectives searched Klopfer's home, where they found more than 70 cardboard boxes that contained the fetal remains, according to Kelley.
"There were hundreds and hundreds of boxes that we had to go through to make sure there were no more of these remains in that residence," he said. "I can tell you that in the 31 years that I've been doing this job, I've never seen anything like this, ever."
The fetal remains were stored among other items belonging to Klopfer in his garage, Kelley said.
"Just imagine your garage and you walk and you're storing whatever -- car parts, bottles of motor oil," he said. "That's what the garage looked like ceiling to floor."
Vice President Mike Pence tweeted Monday that the discovery of the fetal remains should "shock the conscience of every American" and noted that the state of Indiana had taken away Klopfer's medical license when Pence served as governor.
South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, a Democratic presidential candidate, said Wednesday he found the discovery to be "extremely disturbing" and that he hopes that the matter will be "fully investigated."
"I also hope that it doesn't get caught up in politics at a time when women need access to health care," he said.
Klopfer was considered Indiana's "most prolific" abortion doctor, with tens of thousands of procedures performed, the South Bend Tribune reported. The state suspended his medical license in 2016 for failing to exercise reasonable care and for violating notice and documentation requirements, the Tribune reported. The Women's Pavilion shut down the same year.
In Indiana, fetal remains must be buried or cremated. Rep. Jackie Walorski, R-Ind., said in a statement that she would consider proposing federal legislation related to the disposal of aborted fetuses. Walorski also called on state and federal authorities to conduct a full investigation into Klopfer.
The macabre discovery of fetal remains contains echoes of the case of Kermit Gosnell, a Philadelphia doctor who is serving a life sentence after a jury in 2013 convicted him of murder for snipping the spinal cords of three babies who lived for a few moments outside the womb. Investigators found dismembered remains in milk jugs and glass jars inside Gosnell's clinic.
There's no indication why the fetal remains were at Klopfer's residence, according to authorities.
"We collectively ask that the media and the public not pass judgment on the Klopfer family who made this startling discovery and who have been cooperating fully throughout this entire process," Kelley said.