Editor's note: This column was co-authored by Lauren Kaylor.
The abortion industry’s utter disdain for human dignity is on grotesque display in the bizarre legacy of Ulrich Klopfer. A week after the longtime, disgraced abortionist died, his family discovered 2,246 medically preserved fetuses on his property in Illinois. Klopfer, an infamous abortionist in Indiana, performed tens of thousands of abortions over the course of 40 years before his medical license was suspended in 2016.
In 2016, Klopfer admitted to performing an abortion on a 10-year-old girl without notifying authorities, as required. The Indiana licensing board also found he performed abortions on two 13-year-olds without filing paperwork within three days as required by law. He was officially suspended in 2016 for “professional incompetence” and failure to “keep abreast of current professional theory or practice.”
Although Klopfer’s license was suspended, there appears to have been no law in Illinois barring him from harboring the remains of thousands of unborn children in his Illinois home.
Possibly foreseeing this type of situation, then-Governor of Indiana Mike Pence signed a law in 2016 that required fetal remains to be treated with dignity. Had the new law been in effect, Klopfer’s transportation across state lines and storage of the bodies of more than 2,000 unborn children would have been illegal.
The Indiana law was challenged by Planned Parenthood, but was upheld in 2019 by the Supreme Court. In his concurrence, Justice Thomas noted, “I would have thought it could go without saying that nothing in the Constitution or any decision of this Court prevents a State from requiring abortion facilities to provide for the respectful treatment of human remains.”
Thomas’ comment about treating human remains with respect, along with the Vice President’s recent call for an investigation into Dr. Klopfer’s practice, invites deeper reflection on fundamental notions of human dignity and, for Christians, what it means to bear the image of God.
The Christian faith presents a holistic, pro-life ethic that upholds the dignity and personhood of all people. This is seen in the Bible’s first chapter where it explains that everyone is made in the image of God (Gen 1:26-27). Although theologians debate the exact meaning of this term, at the very least it means that man represents God to the rest of creation in a unique way. Whether through our relational, rational, or volitional abilities (or a combination of the three), we image God to the rest of the world; when the world looks at a human being, they get a glimpse of what God looks like. Obviously, bearing the image of God confers incredible value and dignity on humanity. And this dignity is present in every human being, born and unborn, regardless of perceived utility.
Humanity’s capacity for a personal relationship with God is another indicator of our dignity. Incredibly, this personal relationship begins in utero. The Bible says both Jeremiah and Isaiah are formed and called by God to serve Him as prophets while in their mother’s wombs (Jeremiah 1:4-5 and Isaiah 41:9a). In Psalm 22:10, David says, "On you was I cast from my birth, and from my mother’s womb you have been my God.” And in Job 31:15, Job defends the way he has treated his servants by noting: “Did not he who made me in the womb make him? And did not one fashion us in the womb.” Job understands that unborn life—his own and his servants’—has great value to God.
Contrary to the recent suggestion made by Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg, Mayor of South Bend, Indiana where Klopfer performed abortions, the Bible does not teach that life “begins with breath.” Instead, the Bible teaches that unborn children have dignity equal to all other humans and for the same reason—they are created by God in his image. The Bible is clear that life begins in the womb and that unborn children possess intrinsic value by virtue of their creation in God’s image (Psalm 139:13-16).
The Christian worldview teaches that God created each person to reflect him, regardless of sex, race, ethnicity, religion, or national origin. The Bible asserts that the orphan, the widow, and the sojourner all possess the same human dignity as anyone else (Deut. 10:17-19). God is the maker of “both the rich and poor”( Prov 22:2).
The God-given dignity bestowed on human beings is why the collection of aborted babies found at Dr. Klopfer’s house represents more than just a bizarre, creepy fetish. Rather, it represents a violation of fundamental human dignity and once again demonstrates the abortion industry’s profound disregard for human life.
David Closson is the Director of Christian Ethics and Biblical Worldview at the Family Research Council. Lauren Kaylor is the Life, Culture, and Women’s Advocacy intern for the Family Research Council.