From the book Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory – an account of a funeral given to thousands of aborted babies rescued from a dumpster outside an abortion clinic. It was written by Monica Miller.
This chapter has been edited due to length.
The Funeral for “No One”
“To forget murder victims is to kill them twice.”
. . .
Those involved with the retrievals decided that the best course of action was to obtain as many bodies of the aborted babies as possible and then, after a large number were in our possession, begin the arrangements for their burials. It would have been difficult, very time consuming and expensive to bury bodies every two or three weeks as they were accumulated. Besides, we firmly believed that the babies deserved a real funeral with a real graveside ceremony. We did not want to repeatedly put bodies into the ground when services for them would have been difficult to arrange every time. We were also resolved not to allow the babies to be buried in haste and secrecy as had happened with the bodies from the Michigan Avenue Medical Center.
This time, the burials of the victims of abortion would be well-planned, well-attended, and very well- advertised.
Edmund and I had told John Cavanaugh-O’Keefe about the aborted baby find and that we were in possession of thousands of bodies. In 1986 and 1987, when he worked for Human Life International, John retrieved four hundred and fifty bodies of aborted babies from Washington D.C. abortion centers. John was opposed to mass burials. He believed that each unborn child should be granted an individual burial because the brief period of their lives was not the criteria by which their personhood was measured. Each unborn child was a unique member of the human race, and John wanted to recognize the unique personhood of each of these fetal children and not just have them buried anonymously together. Moreover, John, a former anti-war activist, believed that what we did with the unborn (living and dead) foreshadowed what we would do with the rest of the world in terms of peace. If we buried the babies in mass graves what kind of world violence were we preparing for? What kind of world violence were we willing to accept?
I wanted very much to do what John urged and give each child an individual burial so that each child’s personal existence and humanity could be honored. If I had had only a dozen bodies, or fifty, or a hundred or maybe even three hundred, perhaps it could have been done. We would have found three hundred individual pro-lifers all over the country who would have organized three hundred funerals.
But we had literally thousands of bodies. Edmund and I had retrieved over two thousand of them. Tim Murphy and the other Chicago activists had approximately three thousand. By the time our retrieval efforts came to an end, over 5000 bodies were in need of burial. To communicate with over 5000 pro-lifers and ship the bodies to them was a massive undertaking. It probably meant that we would do no other pro-life work except arrange for the burials of the aborted unborn for months to come. I did not want to be in the funeral business forever.
Edmund and I were set upon one thing, which was a sort of compromise with what John had hoped for. We knew the particular cities where the babies had been aborted and we thought it only right that the babies be buried in the cities where they may have been brought into life and where they certainly had been killed.
We contacted pro-lifers in Raleigh, Fargo, Fort Wayne, Fairfield, and Wilmington. We tried to arrange to have the bodies transported by car to the various cities and states, since we believed that transport through the mail or United Parcel Service was not in keeping with the dignity of the bodies. That is how they had been shipped to the loading dock by the abortion clinic workers. The only bodies shipped parcel post were those killed in Raleigh. In July, 1988, Edmund drove his super Beetle six hundred miles to Philadelphia and gave Joe Foreman, who was living there at the time, two hundred bodies of aborted babies. These bodies were of unborn babies killed at the New Jersey Women’s Health Organization and the Delaware Women’s Health Organization. The bodies were then given to pro-lifers from those states. Not wanting to spend Citizens for Life’s money, Edmund had pawned his guitar to finance his Philadelphia excursion.
The unborn killed in Raleigh by Dr. Marx were buried at a cemetery in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. The funeral was organized by John Cavanaugh-O’Keefe’s sister, Lucy O’Keefe.
I made arrangements with Charlene Crommit of the Diocese of Fargo’s Respect Life Office to have the Fargo babies transported back there. One hundred and forty unborn babies killed in Fargo, North Dakota were placed in one small infant’s coffin and sent by jet to that city. The transport by jet had been paid for by the Fargo diocese and the small white coffin was met by a representative of the bishop of the Fargo diocese, John Sullivan. The transport by jet had been arranged by Brent Funeral Home in Milwaukee just as the body of any human being is transported for burial. (In hindsight, all of the bodies of aborted babies should have been delivered this way.) In Fargo, Bishop James Sullivan personally led the burial service for the fetal children.
Several years ago, Joe Scheidler and I sat at a table in a Burger King on Clark Street in Chicago. Several other pro-lifers sat with us or at tables nearby. We had been testifying at hearings called by Cook County Board president George Dunne, who sought to end the practice of abortion at Cook County Hospital. There was a break in the proceedings, so our large gang of pro-lifers all traipsed to the Burger King for lunch.
Over burgers, fries and sodas Joe narrated how he witnessed the birth of his second daughter, Annie. As he told the story, Joe’s face sparkled with joy. “After seeing this little life come out of the womb–my own little daughter–I never felt such happiness. I felt like I was levitating. It was then that I realized that to attack an innocent child inside its mother’s womb was the closest thing to killing God.”
Perhaps Joe’s insight was founded in coming to know how abortion attacks what is sacred in man–a sacredness that comes from God. Furthermore, to attack the developing child in his mother’s womb is an attack on the order of God’s creation. Abortion not only kills a human being; it also undoes the bonds of human communion. It is in human unity and the intrinsic inter-relatedness of persons that man knows and experiences God’s own love. God centered the order of creation in the unity of human persons: man and woman, husband and wife, mother and child. Abortion unravels human bonds–indeed wrenches those bonds apart and thus is an attempt to unravel creation.
Just beyond a closed door in my apartment lay the dismembered bodies of unborn children. I began to know their isolation and to understand that the aborted child’s isolation is caused by the triumph of another individual in isolation–the lonely monadic self who must secure its own identity and power by suppressing or annihilating all who threaten to be in relation to it. Here lay these silent bodies in the hands of a stranger in a strange place, who had taken them from a loading dock. They were apart from their mothers. Apart and distant from their fathers. Apart from the towns where they had been conceived. In them I knew the denial of man’s most intrinsic bonds. Roe v. Wade was based on the premise, indeed on the philosophy, that the woman stands alone. Abortion isolates a woman from all other human beings in the world. Under Roe no one–not parents, boyfriend or husband–has any claim upon the woman and her baby. The power needed to accomplish such a radical, ultimate separation between the woman and her child is achieved by the woman’s isolating herself from all others in the world who, inherently, do stand in relation to her. The promoters of legal abortion do tout it as “a private decision between a woman and her physician.” And there is truth in this point of view. The isolated woman necessarily makes a compact with a nameless stranger. Most often, even in legal abortion the woman may not even know the physician’s name and may never have seen him before. Most likely the woman will never see him again. There is no real relation between the abortion-bound woman and the person who will kill her baby. The abortionist is a kind of high priest who presides over a ritual of alienation.
. . .
In June, 1988, Joe Scheidler sat down at a table with Joseph Cardinal Bernardin in a room at the archdiocesan chancery office located on Superior Street in the posh north end of the Chicago Loop. Joe, with other pro-life leaders who attended the meeting, wanted to discuss frustrations the pro-life community had with the diocese and Bernardin’s own lack of hard-core involvement in the anti-abortion struggle. For years Catholics in the archdiocese active in the pro-life cause had felt that they were very much on their own. Few priests provided encouragement; some indeed, were hostile to pro-life initiatives and the archdiocese provided very little institutional Church backing for pro-life activist work. Joe and the other pro-life leaders who attended the meeting hoped to initiate a change. At the meeting, Joe suggested ways Bernardin himself could become more involved. Joe told him there were aborted babies that needed to be buried and asked the cardinal if he would officiate at the burial himself. The cardinal agreed.
On a sunny and warm July 30, 1988, I drove with two friends from Milwaukee to Queen of Heaven cemetery in Hillside, Illinois, a western suburb of Chicago. We parked the car and walked to the small chapel located in the mausoleum. A hearse was parked in the circular drive outside of the chapel; inside it were two large, beige-colored and exceptionally ornate adult caskets. They contained the bodies of the two thousand aborted babies to be buried that day. We entered the chapel, and I took a seat in a pew near the front reserved for those who had helped take the bodies out of the trash. I saw Joe Scheidler, Tim Murphy, Jerry McCarthy, Brian Pabich and Peter Krump. In another ten minutes the chapel was filled to overflowing, and the funeral Mass soon began. Bernardin was the primary celebrant and the homilist. After the Mass the mourners returned to their cars and followed the hearse through the winding streets of the cemetery until it came to a plot at the extreme west end. The caskets were unloaded from the hearse and placed on transport tables with castors. I and the others who were involved with the retrieval acted as pall bearers to the grave site.
Bernardin was standing near the open ground, and Fr. Coughlin stood near him. Soon six hundred people gathered around to join in the burial ceremony. There were also several TV cameras and photographers and journalists present. Bernardin blessed the ground, blessed the caskets and offered prayers for the dead. In a matter of moments the ceremony was over.
Indeed, everything was perfect. The Mass and burial were marked with the greatest dignity and solemnity. The caskets seemed suitable for royalty. And most important, the burial was public. That day the victims of abortion were not buried in haste and in secret.
Indeed, Bernardin took some flack for officiating at the burial. Colleen Connell of the American Civil Liberties Union who had criticized our on-the-street press conference a year earlier, now criticized the cardinal in a Chicago Tribune story:
He allowed himself to be used in a shameless publicity stunt. It’s one thing for the cardinal to say the Catholic Church is opposed to abortion.
But it’s quite another for him to participate in an action which demeans the personal privacy and integrity of women who may or may not be church members.
Perhaps Connell would have been satisfied if the fetal remains had been left in the trash. She also failed to consider that some women, indeed perhaps quite a few, would be comforted to know that their unborn baby was given a humane burial. Connell also questioned whether laws had been broken by those of us who “provided the fetuses.”
Bernardin told the reporter that he did not ask where the babies had come from and did not know what the legal ramifications might be but stated that “they would pale into insignificance when compared to the taking of innocent human life. I knew what I was doing, and what I was doing was a corporal work of mercy done in a very beautiful religious ceremony.”
[Miller then discusses another burial ceremony]
Prayers were said, hymns sung and then finally the six coffins were placed in the ground. We did not want to leave the actual burial for the cemetery grounds crew. We wanted to bury the babies ourselves to make it a more personal act. A young man lowered himself down into the massive grave. Greg Gesch and another young man passed the coffins down to him. Soon all of the coffins lay at the bottom of this deep, red-earthen hole.
The young man was pulled out. I took one long last look at the coffins below me. We then took turns shoveling the red clay into the grave until it was filled.
Local media coverage was extensive. A huge photo of the burial dominated the front page of the August 6th Tallahassee Democrat. We were stunned and delighted to see it. The photo was exceptionally poignant. It showed the young man in the grave with his arms outstretched to receive a coffin. It was beautiful. The Jacksonville Journal published a well-balanced article with photos–except the headline read “Pro-lifers bury caskets in protest” and stated that we “said [the caskets] contained the remains of aborted fetuses.” The article gave the impression that perhaps we were burying empty coffins!
The next morning one-hundred and thirty-one pro-lifers, including me, blocked the door to the North Florida Women’s Health and Counseling Services. Susan Brindle, Joan’s sister, was arrested as she held her two year old daughter Peggy. Tom Herlihy, Father Robert Pearson, Joe Wall and Ed Martin were also arrested. With sixty other women, I spent two nights in the Leon County jail. In the meantime Edmund and his family, with a small contingent of friends, buried nine of the aborted babies in ground set aside as a cemetery on land the Miller family owned near their home in Lloyd.
When we returned home from our Florida trip, final preparations were made for the burial of aborted babies in Milwaukee. The day of the burial, Saturday, September 10th, was very warm and sunny. The burial was well-advertised. Citizens for Life had sent out a large mailing; and there were two ads in the Catholic Herald, the archdiocesan newspaper, as well as a small ad in the Milwaukee Journal.
The Christian radio station, WVCY, had made several announcements about the burial in the preceding weeks. I expected this funeral to be well-attended.
Edmund and I awoke very early. We placed seven aborted babies in one of the wooden white coffins that he had made. We took these seven out of the whirl-pacs and actually assembled the small broken limbs. They were bodies of aborted babies killed at the Metropolitan Medical Services. Metropolitan occupied a small, two- story modern, non-descript building near the corner of Wisconsin Avenue and 27th St. Its east wall butted up against the west wall of a Marquette University co-ed dormitory. It always bothered me that Marquette as an institution, and the students themselves, seemed oblivious to the killing of the unborn that occurred right next door to them. Years earlier the Christian Radio station, WVCY, had first broadcast from that building. Vic Eliason, the founder of WVCY, was always saddened when he thought of what was going on in the building now. after Metropolitan moved into the building a karate studio rented the second floor but it had long since moved out. Abortions were done in the basement.
Metropolitan was one of the few places that could strictly be called an abortion clinic. Nothing else was done there.
When it first opened, just after the Roe v. Wade decision, three doctors took turns doing the abortions: Neville Sender (born in England), George Woodward and Nathan Hilrich. Without explanation, Hilrich quit doing abortions in 1987. Of the three-man team, Sender was certainly the most committed to the abortion practice, with Woodward a close second. In the late 1980′s both Sender and Woodward were in their mid to late sixties. Sender had boasted in the Milwaukee Journal that he had performed illegal abortions before Roe v. Wade He also shocked pro-lifers when, in reference to abortion, he told the Journal: “Of course we know it’s killing but the state permits killing in certain circumstances.”
. . .
Metropolitan was located in a shabby section of the near-downtown area. It was in an integrated neighborhood with commercial businesses, lots of apartment buildings, and old homes in obvious need of paint and repair. Carol Robbins was one of the most faithful sidewalk counselors at Metropolitan. She could be seen standing in front of the building nearly every day that the abortion center was open. On a warm summer day in 1991, a good-looking young man walked past the clinic. He stopped for a moment to look at Carol’s picket sign which displayed photos of aborted babies in the first trimester. Carol went over to him and gave him some pro-life literature which also showed aborted babies.
The young man looked at the pictures.
“What do you think about that?,” Carol asked him.
“Hum, the man said, “It makes me hungry.”
Three weeks later, on Monday, July 22, 1991, the young man was arrested. When Carol saw the television news clips about his arrest, she gasped. The man was Jeffrey Dahmer who, over a period of thirteen years, had killed seventeen men. He cut up the bodies of his victims, dissolved the flesh, stored the skulls, kept body parts in his refrigerator, and engaged in cannibalism. Dahmer lived in a run down apartment building on 25th Street north of Kilbourn, only two blocks away from Metropolitan.
On the day following Dahmer’s arrest, the Milwaukee Sentinal frontpage headline blasted in larger than usual bold black letters: “Human Body Parts Found in Apartment.”
I was stunned by the headline. It could have been written about me. I thought how ironic it was that I, too, once had in my apartment body parts from human beings who had been killed. The difference, of course, was that I hoped to confer dignity upon those bodies, while Dahmer denigrated the remains of those human beings whom he drugged, used first for his pleasure and then annihilated. The media and then the world was totally appalled by what Dahmer had done and readily exposed his storage of body parts as an atrocity–a further denigration of his victims. If the media had known about the body parts in my apartment, I would have been treated as a pro-lifer with a ghoulish obsession or weird fetish that only a pro-life fanatic like myself could have. To the media the actual victims of the aborted unborn would have been of little or of no consequence at all, since they are not considered persons and it is legal to kill them.
Edmund and I placed the small casket in the back seat of my car and drove the short distance from our apartments to Metropolitan, which was open for business that Saturday morning. We placed the infant’s coffin on the sidewalk a few feet from the door of the abortion clinic. We were not doing this to be vindictive. Edmund and I felt it was important that Sender, Woodward and the abortion clinic workers be confronted by the remains of the human beings they had helped to kill. The victims of Metropolitan had been shipped to a lab where they were literally treated like trash. But when we placed the bodies of those human beings on the doorstep of the abortion center where they had been killed, the abortionists and their workers could not so easily dismiss them. They thought they had shipped them out of the clinic and out of their thoughts–as if these unborn children had never existed.
Edmund stood next to the coffin while I stood on the sidewalk nearby. I held in my arms a duct-taped, tattered box. It was one of the boxes from the Vital Med loading dock that Metropolitan had shipped the fetal remains in.
The initials “MMS” were in the upper left corner of the box with the return address of the abortion clinic.
A police squad pulled into the parking lot; a policeman came out and stood on the sidewalk. A few minutes later, a dark-haired woman, in her early forties and wearing nurses whites, stepped out of the abortion clinic. It was Susan Corrone, the manager of Metropolitan. To pro-lifers she displayed a hard, no-nonsense, humorless personality. I saw her take the few steps over to the little coffin. She bent over slightly and peered for a second at the tiny broken bodies. She shook her head while pursing her lips.
“Nope, those aren’t ours,” she said.
“Oh, yes they are, Susan,” I said as I walked over to her carrying the Metropolitan box.
I stopped several feet from her and pointed to the box.
“Maybe you don’t recognize the babies, but you might recognize the box they were shipped in.”
A puzzled and apprehensive look came over her. She walked over to me and looked at the box closely and saw the return address.
“Well, I think I’ll take that. That’s our property,” she said.
Susan grabbed the box, and she and I tussled over it for a brief second.
“Officer, this woman has clinic property. Tell her to return it,” Susan yelled, now very obviously upset.
She succeeded in wrenching the box from my grasp. The officer came over quickly but seemed confused about what to do. I expected he would immediately set out to take charge and wield his authority.
I explained: “Officer, she says I’m in possession of clinic property; but this was a box that the abortion clinic threw in the trash that contained aborted babies. I took the box and the babies out of the trash.” I then turned to Susan, who had taken a few steps toward the side door of the clinic, looking as if she hoped to whisk herself and the box inside.
I shouted: “Susan it won’t do you any good to take that box. I have more where that one came from.”
To my utter surprise, the officer ordered Susan to give the box back to me. I was not used to police officers siding with pro-lifers.
“I think this is her box now,” he said.
Susan came over and begrudgingly put the box back into my hands.
Several days prior to the aborted babies’ funeral, I had called, Thomas Wiseman, the owner of Brett Funeral Home and asked if he would help us with this burial. Motivated by his Catholic convictions, Wiseman arranged to have six, white child-sized coffins donated by the Milwaukee Casket Company; he also provided the use of three black hearses. On Friday, the day before the burial, Edmund and I and two friends had gone to the funeral home to place the bodies of the twelve hundred aborted babies in the coffins. I felt ill at ease in the small back room where we were escorted to carry out this burdensome task. I felt I had intruded upon a place that was meant to be forever hidden and secret. The back rooms were strange and foreign and pathetically drab. I had been to many funeral homes to attend the wakes of friends and relatives. One sees the elegant furniture, draperies and lush carpeting of the funeral parlors. I fully realized how immersed in death my life had become as I was taken past those outer rooms and into into the stark, gray place where the dead were prepared for burial. I was jarred by the sight of the corpse of a fully-grown man who lay on a gurney against one of the walls of the room. Except for his head he was covered by a clean white sheet. A plastic curtain was drawn, but only partially concealed him.
With care we took the tiny bodies of the aborted unborn out of their cardboard cradles, stained with blood and formalin, and laid them in the the five white coffins–the only other cradles they would ever know.
Now, after Susanne Corrone returned the box to me, I got back into my car and drove to The Brett Funeral Home. A reporter from the Milwaukee Journal and a photographer from United Press International were going to meet me there at 9:30. When I arrived, Patrick Jasperse, the Journal reporter, was waiting for me in the parking lot. The back seat of my Celica was loaded to the brim with empty cardboard boxes from Vital Med; each one bore the return address of the abortion clinic from whence it had come. I wanted the media to see the boxes, if not the actual babies themselves, as proof that indeed we were in possession of aborted babies and that indeed aborted babies were being buried that day. I wanted the victims of abortion to be as real as possible for the press. I showed Jasperse the boxes.
When we entered the funeral home, the five coffins were set out in one of the parlors. Jasperse observed the coffins briefly, made a few notes, shook my hand and said he would see me later at the burial. Soon a very young, short, dark-haired man came into the home toting a camera. The UPI photographer seemed far more interested in the bodies of the children. He took several photos of the coffins laid out in the parlor. I offered to open the lid of one of the coffins because I wanted the press to see the bodies. He said, “yes” that he would like to see them. When I opened the lid of one coffin, filled with hundreds of dark-red, blood-colored whirl pacs, he nearly gasped. This young photo journalist was astonished.
I picked up one of the whirl-pacs and showed him the small feet of an unborn child that were plainly visible through the plastic. He took some photos of the open coffin and then left.
The wake service for the children began at eleven A.M. It was held at Trinity Lutheran Church, which is a Milwaukee landmark–a beautiful, old-style, German- gothic structure. Four tall stained glass windows adorn the sanctuary space. When I entered the church I was struck by the brilliance of the windows, their colors stunning against the church’s dark carved wood. High above the sanctuary was another stained glass window that showed Jesus holding and blessing little children. By eleven o’clock the church was filled with about five hundred mourners. Edmund had brought one of the coffins into the church. With the other fetal remains from Metropolitan, he had placed the largest of the aborted babies we had retrieved from Vital Med–a very well-developed unborn baby killed in the sixth month of gestation. His hands and feet, not yet covered with baby fat, looked like those of an adult but in miniature. Like the very large baby we had retrived from the Michigan Avenue Medical Center, there was nothing to identify who this child was or where he had come from. Edmund placed the open coffin on the bottom step of the sanctuary. Several mourners slowly filed past it. From high in the choir loft in the rear of the church, a beautiful soprano voice rang out a Catholic hymn written for the Lenten season: “O come and mourn with me a while. See Mary calls us to her side. O come and let us mourn with her. Jesus, Our Love, is crucified!” The song continued and the five white children’s coffins slowly were brought into the church and carried up the center aisle. The solemn procession was a step into a new sorrow made manifest in these kinds of burials–a sorrow–until now–the world had not known.
How odd to think that in the five coffins were the bodies of almost three times as many people as sat in the pews. Greg Gesch read Psalm 94:
… Your people, O Lord, they trample down,
your inheritance they afflict.
Widow and stranger they slay, the
fatherless they murder, And they say, “The Lord sees not;
the God of Jacob perceives not.”
Understand you senseless ones
among the people;
and you fools, when will you be wise?
Shall he who shaped the ear not hear?
or he who formed the eye not see?
Pastor Ferdinand Bahr from Divine Shepherd Lutheran Church delivered the sermon based upon Luke 18: 15-17, “Suffer the little children to come to me.” When the service was completed, the coffins were taken in procession out of the church. Edmund carried the small wooden one, and I followed behind. When we left the church, we were bathed in sunlight. The coffins were placed in the waiting hearses.
One hundred cars lined up for a two-mile stretch behind the three hearses. With motorcycle police escorts, the procession slowly wound its way through the streets of Milwaukee. At several intersections, oncoming traffic had to be halted to allow the procession to pass. How ironic, I thought, that now the world had to wait for the babies. A world that was not bothered about them while they lived now had to wait for them to pass in their deaths.
Spectators watched bewildered by the scene. One man standing on a street corner was heard to exclaim, “Man!
Whoever this guy was, he had to be rich!” Another onlooker asked one of the police escorts, “Who died?” The policeman shook his head and answered, “No one.”
Hundreds of additional mourners had gathered at the gravesite. The service began with gospel hymns sung by a black choir from Gospel Lighthouse Church. Father Gene Jakubek, S.J., a priest well known in Milwaukee for his help to the poor, read the gospel and delivered the graveside eulogy. He read from Matthew 25: “I assure you, whatsoever you did to the least of my brothers you did unto me.” Fr. Jakubek told those gathered to continue their fight to end the “holocaust of abortion.”
A woman who stood behind me introduced herself. She said she had had an abortion several years ago. “I’m offering this memorial service for my own baby.”
Msgr. Fabian Bruskewitz, the pastor of my parish, St. Bernard’s, stepped forward and blessed the coffins and the graves with holy water. Years later Bruskewitz would become the bishop of Lincoln, Nebraska.
When the ceremony was over, Edmund and a few other men lowered the coffins into the twelve-by-six foot mass grave. It seemed appropriate that these babies share the same final resting place. Many of them died on the same day, in the same place and at the hands of the same abortionist. The injustice of abortion had woven their lives together. And a mass grave for aborted children stands as a symbol to society.
Local media coverage of the burial was extensive and, for the most part, surprisingly, favorable. The story done by the NBC affiliate was even poignant. The two-minute piece appeared more like a mini-movie than a news story. It was completely void of derisive comments. The reporter acted more like a narrator of the event. The Channel 4 coverage began with the five white children’s coffins being carried into the church. Pastor Bahr was taped giving his sermon and the camera then focused on the faces of some of those in the pews. Two women were weeping. The next shot showed the coffins being placed in the hearses while the church bells chimed their low, solemn tone. A few people who attended the wake service were asked why they had come, and the story concluded by showing the burial service at the cemetery with a voice-over saying “the organizers say they are doing this to promote the sanctity of human life.”
Strangely absent from the story were the expected interviews with Planned Parenthood officials, the ACLU, or abortion clinic workers who would have said that what we were doing was a shameful media circus or that we were violating the rights of women. In all of my pro-life experience, this short piece was the most sympathetic coverage of an abortion-related event I had ever seen.
After the burial, Roseanne St. Aubin from the CBS affiliate station interviewed me at the cemetery. All of the reporters who covered the burial referred to the aborted babies as “fetuses.” They were never called “unborn babies” or “unborn children.” The secular press believes the impersonal word “fetus” is somehow neutral. Roseanne St. Aubin once even referred to the fetal remains as “tissue” when she stated “the organizers [of the burial] would not give details on how the tissues were acquired.” The Channel 6 reporter also stated:
“Migliorino said names of the women who had the abortions were on the bags containing the fetuses but those names were buried along with the fetuses buried today and the group kept no records…
It’s not clear whether members of the group could be or would be prosecuted for the way the fetuses were acquired. Migliorino was not afraid of the possibility.”
I was shown saying: “We performed an act of charity for these children. The wrongness occurred when they threw them in the trash.”
Roseanne St. Aubin’s remark about the possibility of prosecution was prescient. Six months later, on March 23, 1989, I was sent a summons informing me that I was being sued by the National Organization for Women in the NOW v. Scheidler R.I.C.O case. Not only our rescues, but now even our retrieval of aborted babies and their funerals amounted to acts of extortion since these acts allegedly were designed to close down abortion clinics. The fifty-page amended complaint described our retrieval of the bodies as “a ghoulish plot to steal laboratory specimens.” NOW accused us of making threats to reveal the names of the women whose aborted babies we had “stolen.” But we never intended to make their names known, nor did we ever threaten to do so.
It was at this time that the complaint was amended to add Randall Terry to the lawsuit as well as Tim Murphy, Andy Scholberg and Conrad Wojnar. Under a weird theory that Vital Med was in league with us, NOW even named the Northbrook lab as a defendant. Joan Andrews and John Ryan originally were defendants but NOW voluntarily dropped both Joan and John from the lawsuit. The rogue defendant Vital Med was also voluntarily removed. Owned by Dr. Samuel Shih, Vital Med closed soon after the lawsuit was initiated against the clinic. I resented that Vital Med was named as a defendant. Except for the mysterious Vital Med employee, the lab was in league with the abortion clinics, not with us. At one of the depositions I told Vital Med’s attorney, “Your client was throwing the bodies of human beings in the trash. It doesn’t deserve to be a defendant in this case.”
A month after the Milwaukee burial Edmund, Dan Zeidler and I went to the cemetery to take care of some paper work about the gravesite and the placement of the tombstone. We stopped by the babies’ grave to say some prayers. The infant section of Holy Cross is a very special place. The tombstone inscriptions express the great love parents have for their children. One does not find on adult markers the same heart-felt expressions of love, affection and sorrow. The dates on the stones reveal that some of the babies died on the day they were born. Some of the inscriptions read: “Our angel, with us for a moment–with God for eternity,” “Jesus adopted our son–Mommy and Daddy love baby,” “Our treasure lies here,” and “Tread softly–a dream lies buried here.” The stones, like silent sentinels, have frozen into them the sorrow of parental loss.
Ironically, it was among children who were loved, wanted and given names that the aborted babies found a final home. Their grave, larger than the others, and not yet covered with sod, was easy to find. Thirteen silk roses, left by Edmund after the burial, covered the top of the grave. Many of the other children’s graves had small toys placed on them by parents. I was glad to see one left for the aborted babies, a stuffed toy rabbit wrapped in plastic to protect it from the rain. Through the plastic we saw a folded piece of paper fastened to the paw of the bunny with a rubber band. Overcome by curiosity, we carefully unwrapped the toy to investigate.
As Edmund stooped over the grave, Dan and I hovered over him. Edmund unwrapped the note and unfolded it. As I read the note, I began to weep. The note was written in a swirly, feminine hand. It was the cry of a mother to the baby she had aborted:
“Please forgive me and maybe someday I can forgive myself… I’ll always wonder what you would have been, what you would have become. I can’t stop hating myself right now, regretting the hardest decision I’ve ever made in my life, wishing I could do it differently now. But I can’t. I will always remember this. It was a tough lesson to have to learn…I pray to God and to you to forgive me so I can go on with my life and I swear to both you and the Lord that I will never ever do it again. Please forgive me so I can let go and go on!”
Edmund refolded the note, bound it back onto the rabbit’s paw and placed the toy back inside its plastic shroud.
The Milwaukee Journal had printed that the “fetuses” were aborted in 1988 at the Summit Women’s Health Organization and Metropolitan Medical Services. The woman’s note seemed to indicate she believed her child was buried in this grave. Her note expressed her sense of having abandoned the baby. She knew this deep within herself. By burying the baby we had returned him to his mother. The burial gave the aborted unborn a human place in the world. In the woman’s letter to her baby, the awful tearing of human bonds caused by abortion knew a more perfect healing.
The woman’s cry was not uttered in vain. On the reverse side of the note someone had written a reply.
“God’s love is the heart of a child. He hopes where we can only despair. Go in peace–you are forgiven. And you must believe this…”
Beyond abortion stands a mother at the edge of her child’s grave. On a lonely day, one woman had come to this site, and her act of love banished the lie of abortion. In her sorrow the order of the world, rooted in human bonds, was affirmed. From out of all the nameless, faceless children buried there, the woman claimed back to herself the one who was her own.
Note: This story was provided by Priests for Life
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