DETROIT — Father Frank Pavone called all Christians to repentance for the killing of the babies found in a dumpster here recently. The director of Priests for Life made the call following a funeral Mass June 27 for seven aborted babies and three miscarried babies who were retrieved from dumpsters.

Nearly 600 people attended the Mass at Assumption Grotto in Detroit and a burial in the church’s cemetery, where Father Pavone delivered grave-side remarks.

Members and associates of Citizens for a Pro-Life Society found pieces of the aborted babies in garbage behind Women’s Advisory Clinic in Livonia, Mich. The group hopes that public pressure and media publicity will lead to the closing of the facility.

Monica Miller, founder of Citizens for a Pro-Life Society, is a professor of theology at Madonna University in Livonia. She said the babies were found in trash bags along with medical waste, patient records and food.

“Early this year, our group began going through dumpsters at area abortion sites late on Saturday nights to rescue babies and to try to find violations by the clinics,” she said. “In this case, the patient records and the medical waste were disposed of illegally. We notified local police and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.”

John Gohlke, a program specialist with the department’s medical-waste regulatory program, said his group investigated the clinic later and cited the owner, Dr. Reginald Sharpe, for violations. During a follow-up inspection, the Department of Environmental Quality found the clinic in compliance. “We may do more spot inspections in the future, but we are not obligated to,” said Gohlke. “We can levy fines for violations, but can’t close a clinic. We attempted to investigate another of Sharpe’s clinics, but it was locked.”

Miller finds it disappointing that the investigations have focused not on the deceased babies but on the improper disposal of patient records and medical waste. “Throwing away aborted baby parts is also illegal if done improperly,” she said. “That they are mixed in with hamburgers, needles and bloody canulae (tubing used in suction abortions) should deserve more attention.

“Dr. Sharpe had his license suspended for three months in 2005 for doing an abortion on a woman 27 weeks pregnant, during which the mother was nearly killed,” Miller said. “The legal limit in Michigan is 24 weeks. We would like to build enough of a case against him to get a permanent suspension. And we want to let women know that his actions prove that he doesn’t care about them or their health.”

Sharpe was at his office when the Register called, but he didn’t come to the phone.

Collective Guilt

Right before the Mass, Miller held a press conference to raise awareness about Sharpe and his three area abortion businesses. Reporters and TV cameramen from two Detroit television stations, the local newspaper and a few Catholic media were present.

During his homily, Detroit Auxiliary Bishop John Quinn said, “Life is a gift, even when it is marred or aborted. We are giving these babies, who are destined to be with God, the dignity of burial. Where they were treated harshly, we now treat them gently.”

At the cemetery service, Father Pavone referenced Deuteronomy 21:1-10, an account of the absolution necessary for nearby townspeople if a body is found in the open countryside.

“Because they were living on the land when a crime was committed, even if they were not involved, those inhabitants must ask God for forgiveness,” he said. “The same applies to abortion today. Abortion is not happening in secret, unnoticed. It is public, advertised, occurring in our neighborhoods. We as Christians need to repent of doing nothing about it, and we need to begin doing all we can as quickly as possible.”

Later, Father Pavone said that he has done a few similar burial ceremonies, including one for Miller’s group years back, and one at Our Lady of Angels Monastery in Hanceville, Ala. This month in Hanceville, home of EWTN, he will bury three babies given to him by Citizens for a Pro-Life Society who were retrieved from the Women’s Advisory Clinic. The service will be taped and broadcast on his EWTN show July 27.

“Because our society at one level has lost its sense of value of the body, we now throw aborted babies into a dumpster,” he said. “We have forgotten that our body is as much a part of our person as our soul. Blessing and burying these babies gives their bodies the respect they deserve. We need to tell people that this was a real funeral for real people. The attitude that our body is ours to do with whatever we please is the reason we see euthanasia and homosexual marriage more prevalent now.”

One of the people going through the dumpsters, Ann Mitzel of Milan, Mich., said she saw a tiny hand in one of the bags. “Though I have known for years what happens during an abortion, that little hand stayed in my mind for a week,” she said.

Camille Brick, who lives near the abortion business, hadn’t been active in pro-life work but offered her garage as a place for the garbage bags to be opened and inspected. “Seeing baby tissue next to trash is shocking, and knowing that murder is going on every day in my neighborhood,” she said, “I’m thinking about how to get more involved now.”

Legislative Action

While Miller’s group is engaged “on the streets,” Right to Life of Michigan and some legislators are taking action at the state level. Sen. Jason Allen, R-Lansing, and Rep. Bill Huizenga, R-Zeeland, have introduced legislation that would require a health facility where a stillbirth or abortion has occurred to inform the parents that written authorization must be obtained before the remains can be disposed of. This gives parents the right to bury or cremate their children if they wish. If parents request cremation, the body would have to be cremated separately from other medical waste.

Ed Rivet, legislative director for Right to Life of Michigan, said, “This bill has two purposes. One is to protect the dignity of the human body, the other to draw attention to any part of the abortion industry that is unethical and unsavory. We have been trying to get this passed since 2005. Sometimes legislation can take two or three sessions before it gains momentum. But we will keep pressing it. We don’t give up. We keep coming back.”

Bob Horning is based in

Ann Arbor, Michigan.