Cremation of DC’s five late-term aborted babies halted, law firm says

PAAU activists hold a rally outside Washington Surgi-Clinic in Washington, D.C., May 4, 2022. PAAU activists hold a rally outside Washington Surgi-Clinic in Washington, D.C., May 4, 2022. | Credit: Katie Yoder/CNA

The remains of five late-term aborted babies in Washington, D.C., will not immediately be discarded, possibly allowing an autopsy to be done to determine whether federal law was violated by the abortionist responsible for their deaths.

The halt on the cremation of the babies came just before the D.C. medical examiner’s office — which has been in possession of the remains since 2022 — was set to discard them on Friday in defiance of calls by dozens of pro-life groups and federal lawmakers for an autopsy and investigation.

The religious freedom law firm American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) announced on its website Friday the office’s intent to preserve the remains in response to demands sent to the office.

“We have just received assurances that the D.C. government is standing down from today’s cremation,” the announcement said.

“The D.C. government also indicated to us that they will respond to Congress’ demands. We continue to hope that D.C. will in fact conduct a formal investigation into these babies’ deaths,” the group said.

The medical examiner’s confirmation to the ACLJ is in response to a Feb. 6 letter to the medical examiner’s office demanding that a Presbyterian minister, Patrick Mahoney, and his wife, Katie Mahoney, be given the legal rights as “next of kin” for the five babies. 

The minister, a human rights activist, and his wife wish to give the babies a dignified funeral, as no next of kin has stepped forward to do so. The law firm is arguing that under D.C. law, the Mahoneys should be given the right to bury the children.

“As no next of kin has come forward to claim these babies, despite the publicity surrounding their deaths, our clients, Rev. and Mrs. Mahoney, under the D.C. Code, should be given ‘the right to control the disposition of the remains of a deceased person, the location and conditions of internment, and arrangements for funeral goods and services’ as volunteers per D.C. Code § 3-413(a)(5),” the letter said. 

CNA reached out to the medical examiner’s office for comment Monday but did not receive a response.

The secular pro-life group Progressive Anti-Abortion Uprising (PAAU) originally obtained the remains of the aborted babies in March 2022. The pro-life group said it acquired them from the Washington Surgi-Clinic run by Dr. Cesare Santangelo, an OB-GYN and well-known abortionist in the city.

PAAU, along with several federal lawmakers and pro-life activists, has called for an investigation and autopsy to determine if the babies were killed in violation of federal law, specifically the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003 and the Born-Alive Infants Protection Act, which both protect children from abortion after birth. 

On Feb. 5, PAAU announced that the D.C. medical examiner’s office told the group’s legal counsel of the medical examiner’s intent to “destroy” the remains of the babies — known among pro-life activists as the “D.C. Five” — at the behest of the Department of Justice.

“The D.C. medical examiner has informed our attorneys that the DOJ has instructed them to destroy the remains of the [D.C. Five],” the group said.

A lawyer representing the group, Martin Cannon, confirmed to the Daily Signal last week that the Department of Justice reportedly advised the medical examiner that there was “no reason to keep those babies anymore.”

“And the medical examiner’s office accordingly tells me that if we don’t have an order to the contrary, by the end of this week, a court order, they will dispose of the babies,” he said.

Reached for comment last week, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia referred CNA to the D.C. medical examiner’s office. The medical examiner’s office did not respond to any of CNA’s inquiries last week. 

Given the fast-approaching deadline for the babies’ cremation last week, Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz demanded that the remains not be discarded before an autopsy is done.

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“To be clear, the remains of these five children are critical evidence in the congressional oversight that the Subcommittee on the Constitution will conduct in the imminent future,” Cruz said in his Feb. 8 letter, addressed to D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, D.C. Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Francisco Diaz, and D.C. Police Chief Pamela A. Smith.

“Should the D.C. medical examiner’s office decide not to conduct timely autopsies, or preserve the bodies of these babies for outside examination, the Senate Judiciary Committee will have no choice but to expand this issue into a full hearing featuring the Department of Justice and the Office of the D.C. Medical Examiner as witnesses before the American public,” he wrote in the letter.

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