Mark made the gruesome discovery in September 2019, but the experience still haunts him.
While helping his sister-in-law after her husband's sudden death, Mark found fetal remains in plastic bags stuffed into a box in their Chicago-area home's three-car garage.
His brother-in-law, Dr. Ulrich Klopfer, was an abortion provider and a hoarder who kept what would eventually total 2,246 fetal remains. Illinois authorities said they were from abortions conducted between 2000 and 2002.
Mark, who asked that his last name not be published, shared his story Saturday during the 47th annual Northeast Indiana March for Life Prayer Gathering at Abundant Life Church. About 250 people attended the event, which replaced the annual downtown march that has previously drawn as many as 2,000 participants.
Members instead were encouraged to march Saturday in smaller groups that observed pandemic-related protocols.
“If you go out in your neighborhood and march, people see that. And it's a great witness,” Abigail Lorenzen told the assembled crowd as the event wrapped up. Lorenzen is operations and media director for Right to Life of Northeast Indiana, formerly Allen County Right to Life.
Cathie Humbarger, the nonprofit organization's executive director, sat onstage with Mark, the event's featured speaker. She asked him to describe how he found “the babies' bodies” and how the discovery has affected his family emotionally.
Mark, who lives with his wife in Grand Rapids, Michigan, said his wife's sister seemed more annoyed than upset by the plastic bags of remains he found. Klopfer performed abortions at now-shuttered clinics in Fort Wayne, South Bend and Gary. His wife told Mark “only 2,200” abortions were performed on women who were “only 12 weeks or less” into their pregnancies.
“Then I realized there were a big disconnect between (her) head and heart,” said Mark, who has volunteered for organizations opposed to abortion rights since the early 1980s, when he and his wife would stand outside Planned Parenthood offices and encourage young women considering abortion to instead have the babies and put them up for adoption.
He introduced himself as the father of eight – three adult children and four miscarried by his wife and one baby aborted by his girlfriend when they were teenagers. The guilt and shame of that early experience led him to abuse alcohol and drugs, he said, before he became a Christian at age 19.
Mark's wife shares his beliefs. She prayed for the women who received the abortions as law enforcement officials removed the remains from the home, he said. More fetal remains were found in the trunks of cars Klopfer had parked in a storage lot.
Humbarger said he believes God sent Mark and his wife there to ensure the remains were treated with dignity and respect. They are now buried in a South Bend cemetery.
Saturday's gathering included prayers for various elected officials who support the right-to-life movement.
Pastor Rich Brown, of Abundant Life Church, asked for God's blessings for the area's representatives to Washington.
“They are waging a battle in hostile territories,” Brown said.
Rep. Jim Banks, R-3rd, told those gathered that former President Donald Trump was “the most pro-life president in American history” and former President Barack Obama was “the most pro-abortion president in American history.”
“It's going to feel like whiplash,” Banks said, as the Biden administration settles in following Wednesday's inauguration.
“President Biden is assembling the most radical, pro-abortion administration that we have ever seen,” Banks said.
Banks, who chairs the Republican Study Committee, has circulated a letter asking his fellow representatives to pledge not to support a federal spending bill unless it includes protections for the Hyde Amendment, which bars the use of federal funds to pay for an abortion unless necessary to save the life of the woman or if the pregnancy is the result of incest or rape.
So far, he said, more than 200 Republicans have signed and returned the letter but no Democrats have.
Bank, who is a co-sponsor of almost two dozen anti-abortion bills set to be introduced in Congress this week, said he will continue to fight on behalf of the cause.
Lorenzen, of Right to Life of Northeast Indiana, encouraged those in attendance to join the organization, make donations and sign up to volunteer as “sidewalk advocates” who stand outside the local Planned Parenthood location.
Right to Life has added a spring 40 Days for Life event to the annual fall call for prayer and fasting in hopes of ending abortion.
Lorenzen also invited attendees to visit an installation of more than 7,600 crosses on the Concordia Theological Seminary campus. One cross was erected, she said, for every abortion performed in Indiana last year.