by Katherine Beck Johnson
September 18, 2019
The horrendous discovery of jars containing thousands of aborted baby body parts at deceased abortionist Dr. Ulrich Klopfer’s home reaffirms the horrors of abortion and underscores the need for laws that provide for the dignity of the unborn.
Klopfer performed over 30,000 abortions in Indiana before his license was suspended in 2016 for various violations. His egregious acts included performing an abortion on a ten-year-old girl who had been raped by her uncle. He then sent the girl back to her family without notifying the authorities. Now it is abundantly clear that his misdeeds didn’t stop there.
After Klopfer’s death, his family discovered medically-preserved remains of 2,246 unborn children in his home. The horror of this discovery strikes at the very core of a fetal dignity law that was passed in Indiana and affirmed by the Supreme Court. Although his license was suspended for other reasons, there appears to be no Illinois state law barring him from harboring the remains of thousands of unborn children in his Illinois home.
In 2016, then-Indiana Governor Mike Pence signed a state law that required the burial or cremation of fetal remains. Designed to honor the human dignity of unborn children in death, the statute specifically prevents the incineration of fetal remains together with surgical byproducts. The law was challenged and eventually made its way up to the Supreme Court, where it was affirmed in Box v. Planned Parenthood. The Court held that the State had a legitimate interest in the proper disposal of fetal remains and that the requirements were rationally related to that legitimate interest, a principle that the Court noted in City of Akron v. Akron Ctr. for Reprod. Health.
Many other states followed Indiana’s example and enacted laws that affirm the dignity of the remains of the unborn. Texas, Iowa, Louisiana, Michigan, Idaho, Arizona, Florida, Arkansas, and Wyoming all passed fetal dignity laws that provide various protections for the remains of the unborn. A number of other states introduced bills that would have provided similar protections but failed to pass them. Such laws refuse to treat the remains of the unborn as mere surgical byproducts, and instead, acknowledge the humanity and life lost with each abortion.
Klopfer’s storage of thousands of baby body parts should shock the conscience of Americans. In Box, Planned Parenthood challenged the Indiana fetal dignity law that would have outlawed Klopfer’s actions, claiming the law was unnecessary and an attack on women’s rights. However, Klopfer’s collection of unborn remains debunks the myth that there is no need for fetal remains laws.
Atrocities from the disgraced abortionist Kermit Gosnell’s infamous House of Horrors and the recent discoveries at Klopfer’s residence highlight the need to regulate the abortion industry in ways that keep women safe and care for the remains of unborn babies. In June, Illinois proudly expanded abortion access when it enacted the Reproductive Health Act. The law is one of the most sweeping pro-abortion laws in the country: it removed restrictions on the abortion industry and required that insurance providers cover abortion procedures. While the Illinois legislature and Governor were proudly lifting many restrictions on the abortion industry, Klopfer was harboring thousands of unborn remains in his Illinois residence. This stark contrast emphasizes precisely why the industry must be strictly regulated.
Had Indiana’s law been in place when Klopfer was performing abortions, he would have been legally required to surrender the remains for burial or cremation within ten business days. He also could have been charged with transporting a fetus out of Indiana as a Class A misdemeanor, as well as intentionally acquiring fetal tissue as a Level 5 felony. Had Indiana’s law been in place when Klopfer was performing abortions, 2,246 unborn babies might have never been stored in a house like some perverted trophies. There is a crucial need for fetal dignity laws to affirm the unborn and prevent people from perpetrating heinous acts like Klopfer’s. It appears Gosnell’s case is no longer as isolated as we once thought, and there must be legal protections to prevent these types of atrocities.
Our laws must protect the most vulnerable in our society. Indiana’s fetal dignity law and similar laws in other states are crucial steps towards recognizing the humanity of the unborn even in death. Dr. Klopfer, Gosnell, and others have shown what the abortion industry is capable of, and they must not be allowed to disgrace the bodies of their unborn victims howsoever they wish.
Katherine Beck Johnson is the Research Fellow for Legal and Policy Studies at Family Research Council.