A debate over several recovered fetuses that were allegedly the result of partial-birth abortions roiled the nation’s capital last week.
The Progressive Anti-Abortion Uprising (PAAU) said during a press conference it had contacted the Metropolitan Police Department to investigate five of 115 fetuses the group says it obtained from a local medical waste handler.
“We are demanding that the D.C. police conduct a full investigation into the deaths of these babies, including through autopsies,” PAAU founder and executive director Teresa Bukonovic said.
There is a problem, though. Later term abortions are generally legal in D.C. and the coroner has so far declined to probe the matter. Bukonovic and Lauren Handy, an activist who claims she had those five fetuses in her apartment, contend they got them from a driver for a company called Curtis Medical Waste in Baltimore. The truck was outside Washington Surgi-Clinic, which performs medical procedures, including abortions for up to 27 plus weeks.
They alleged that they asked the driver if they could take biohazard labeled boxes he was loading onto the truck and that he agreed. Handy then took the fetuses back to her apartment, Bukonovic said.
During the press conference, the group showed video clips of activists opening the box and taking out several fetuses.
Curtis Bay Medical Waste denied PAAU’s version of events, releasing a statement saying it does not transport fetal remains and its driver did not give a box to the group members.
“On March 25, a Curtis Bay employee took custody of three packages from the clinic and delivered all of them to Curtis Bay’s incineration facility,” the company said in the statement. “At no time did the Curtis Bay employee hand over any of these packages to the PAAU or other third party, and any allegations made otherwise are false.”
At the press conference, activists shared photos of the box, which had the Curtis Bay Medical Waste logo on it. Curtis Bay has declined to comment on this matter.
PAAU claims to have “blessed and buried” the other 110 fetuses found in the biohazard box. They say a priest came to Handy’s house and had a private ceremony where each fetus was given a name.
Late-stage and third-trimester abortions are legal in the District of Columbia. However, PAAU says that these abortions may be in violation of the 2003 Partial-Birth Abortion Act. They claim that these fetuses were a part of a partial-birth abortion, meaning a late-term abortion of a fetus that has already died, or is killed before being completely removed from the mother.
The Partial-Birth Abortion Act “amends the federal criminal code to prohibit any physician or any individual from knowingly performing a partial-birth abortion” unless the mother’s life is endangered.
Twenty-three Republican members of Congress demanded in a letter that Mayor Muriel Bowser and Police Chief Robert Contee conduct a full investigation into each fetus.
“In order to accomplish such investigation, we request and fully expect the city to conduct autopsies on the children and preserve all collected evidence,” the members said in the letter.
D.C. officials say that the medical examiner has no plans to perform autopsies at the moment because it seems that the remains have been aborted according to D.C. law. Ashan Benedict, D.C. police’s executive assistant chief of police, told reporters on Thursday that the only thing that seems to be criminal in nature is how the fetuses got into Handy’s house.
Handy and several others face federal charges for blockading access to a clinic that performs abortions.