The Nation's Pulse

Kampf Culture

Parental approval sometimes isn't what it's cracked up to be.

By 9.25.06

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It was the kind of story that made-for-television movies were made for. However, network execs won't want to touch this one with a ten-foot coat hanger.

On September 15, the 19-year-old girl Katelyn Kampf -- and, no, that name isn't made up -- phoned police from a shopping center in Salem, New Hampshire. She wanted to report a kidnapping: her own.

Two things transformed this from the local crime of the week into a larger story. First, she was allegedly abducted by her own parents. Second, and more important, was the reason for the abduction. Her parents wanted to force her to have an abortion.

Upon learning that their daughter was about five-months pregnant with the child of one Reme Johnson, Lola and Nicholas Kampf ordered her to abort.

There's been a lot of speculation about why they did this but here are the facts: Johnson was black and serving a six-month sentence for possession of a stolen weapon; Katelyn had dropped out of Boston College, probably because of the pregnancy.

So: At best, they were upset that their daughter was setting back her own prospects. At worst, they were worried that their new grandchild would be bad seed.

She refused to have the abortion, which enraged her parents. According to the affidavit that police took from Katelyn, they threatened to kill her and kill her unborn child. When that didn't work, they "chased her out into the yard, grabbed, and tied her feet and hands together," and added duct tape for good measure. Then they threw her bound body into the Lexus.

They were at the family home in North Yarmouth, Maine, and they set out to drive to New York to have the abortion. Katelyn got loose in New Hampshire when her parents stopped to go to the bathroom. She gave them the slip, called the cops, and the case is currently winding its way through courts in both Maine and New Hampshire.

Why take her to New York? According to the Kennebec Journal, Maine may have "one of the most liberal abortion laws on the books," but that isn't the problem. The real concern is "a dearth of abortion providers, especially those willing to perform late-term abortions." The squeamishness of family doctors about such things, you see, "is sending some women to abortion clinics in urban centers such as Boston and New York."

That's one theory, anyway. My own Neanderthal explanation is that the Kampfs could have found a physician in Maine if their daughter were willing to go along with it. But if they wanted to find an honest-to-badness abortionist, who would be willing to take a bribe to ignore the gag or the drugs, they needed to go elsewhere.

The thing that propelled the story to national prominence is the racial angle. Were the Kampfs driven mad by the fact that the father of their grandchild-to-be was black? That's the Jerry Springer question that dozens of stories have asked. Some readers have taken the bait.

One letter to the Concord Monitor by a black New Hampshire resident explained that the writer was "at a crossroads when it comes to the Kampf family....Their daughter was in college and apparently pregnant by an African-American, who is now in jail."

The correspondent decided to saw "against the grain" in order to "side with the parents" who "have raised their daughter and given her everything she needed to become a young adult." "These are great parents in my book," he explained, because they tried to keep her from destroying her life.

However, he was a lot closer to the grain of elite opinion on this one than he could have known. A Boston Globe news report tried to frame the story by explaining, "Katelyn Kampf did not subscribe to her parents' vision for her life."

Maybe -- just maybe -- that was because she didn't believe her life was the only one that mattered.

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About the Author
Jeremy Lott is an editor of rare.us.