LOS ANGELES -- More than 16,000 fetuses who were aborted in California and became the focus of a three-year court battle were buried Sunday and eulogized by President Reagan, who called for an end to legal abortion.
In the eulogy, read by County Supervisor Michael Antonovich, Reagan recalled Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg address, saying, 'Just as the terrible toll of Gettysburg can be traced to a tragic decision of a divided Supreme Court, here also can the deaths be mourned.'
Three U.S. Marines draped one of the coffins with the American flag as about 400 onlookers, many of them carrying anti-abortion signs, crowded around a plot of land, where six coffins containing the remains were buried.
The service ended with the singing of the 'Battle Hymn of the Republic' and many of the mourners laid flowers and crosses made of popsicle sticks at the grave site.
'Once again, a whole category of human beings has been ruled outside the protection of the law by a court ruling, which passed with our deepest moral convictions,' Antonovich read from Reagan's eulogy. 'Like you, I am convinced that these decisions cannot long endure.
'Let us take increased devotion to the cause of restoring to our laws, the full protection they (the unborn) deserve,' the Reagan eulogy read.
Reagan wrote a letter in 1982 to Dr. Philip Dreisbach of Palm Springs, secretary of the California Pro Life Medical Association, endorsing plans for a religious burial of the fetuses and embryos, saying it would be 'fitting and proper.'
The 16,433 fetuses and embryos buried at the Odd Fellows Cemetery in East Los Angeles were found in 1982 in a storage container at the home of a man who operated a medical laboratory.
The Southern California chapter of the Catholic League waged a long court battle to reverse the county's decision to incinerate the fetuses without a religious service on the grounds of the constitutional separation of church and state.
A Superior Court judge in July ruled the county had the right to authorize the burial of the fetuses as long as the county did not encourage or discourage a religious ceremony.
Jeannette Dreisbach, organizer of Americans Committed to Loving the Unwanted, formed solely to arrange the funeral, kissed each of the unadorned coffins before it was interred.
The funeral is 'a victory, but it's not a sweet victory,' Dreisbach told reporters. 'I consider it on the same level as when we brought our dead Vietnam veterans back home.'
Among those participating in the interdenominational funeral were religious leaders from the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles, First Baptist Church of Van Nuys and Tabernacle of Faith Baptist Church.
Rep. Robert K. Dornan, R-Calif., and state Sen. Joseph Montoya, a Democrat, attended the ceremony. Several religious and political leaders sent letters of support, including a New York rabbi, Sen. Gordon Humphrey, R-N.H., and state Sen. David Roberti, a Democrat.