MADISON, Wis. (CNS) — Father Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life, predicted “the end of abortion in our lifetime” in a recent talk he gave in Madison sponsored by Wisconsin Right to Life.
The trial of abortionist Dr. Kermit Gosnell in Philadelphia exposed the grisly truths about the abortion industry, the priest said.
“I was at much of the trial myself,” Father Pavone said in an impassioned speech May 7. “I sat right behind him (Gosnell). He smiled during much of the trial.”
After a six-week trial and 10 days of deliberations, a Philadelphia jury May 13 found Gosnell guilty of murder in the deaths of three babies born alive during abortions and acquitted him of a fourth similar charge. He also was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in the death by a drug overdose of a patient who had an abortion.
Late May 14, prosecutors said the doctor agreed to give up his right to an appeal so he would not get the death penalty. The judge then gave him two consecutive life sentences with no chance for parole on two of three first-degree murder convictions.
At a May 15 sentence hearing, Gosnell received a third life sentence for the third murder conviction and another two and a half to five years in prison for involuntary manslaughter. Those sentences also are consecutive. He also was convicted of hundreds of violations of Pennsylvania abortion regulations.
“Witnesses testified that they heard the babies cry and breathe,” said Father Pavone, noting that the word “baby” was used in the trial, even by the defense.
The priest said Gosnell is not the exception. “He’s the norm,” he said. “The entire abortion industry is on trial here. We have to expose them.”
He pointed to testimony at the trial, which said that the abortion clinic where Gosnell worked had untrained staff (including a 15-year-old who was performing ultrasounds), corroded wires, old equipment, expired medications and reused materials.
“It was horrifying to hear the testimony in court, but none of it was anything we hadn’t heard before,” said Father Pavone.
The case against Gosnell took shape after a team of health inspectors and investigators looking into drug trade raided Gosnell’s clinic in February 2010.
A grand jury report that followed reported on filth throughout, including blood on the floor, cat feces on the stairs and surgical rooms that resembled a “bad gas station restroom.” The investigators gathered the remains of 45 fetuses stored in bags, milk jugs, juice cartons and cat food containers.
Father Pavone said he requested of the judge and the medical examiner that Priests for Life take possession of the remains discovered in the clinic so the group can “have a funeral for them.”
“We’re going to let people honor these children,” he said.
On May 9, the feast of the Ascension, Father Pavone held a prayer service in New York City to bestow names on these babies.
“These babies are people,” he said. “They are our brothers and sisters. The Lord has given us responsibility for them.”
In September, Priests for Life is planning to have a National Day of Remembrance at burial places all over the country where aborted babies are buried.
“We want to remind people that life is beautiful. We have a powerful message. We’ve got to shock the consciences of people into a state of alertness.”
Father Pavone said that “the truth is coming out. We have to shine a brighter light on it.”
He encouraged people to “pray every day for an end to abortion.”
“Keep doing the things that you’re doing,” he told his audience. “Encourage each other in the ongoing fight for life.”
He especially commended the young people in attendance. “You are not simply future leaders. You are leaders now. Join your hands to ours. Together we’ll go over the finish line.”
In her remarks, Barbara Lyons, executive director of Wisconsin Right to Life, said Wisconsin has much lower numbers of abortions than its neighboring states.
She said the efforts of the right-to-life organization’s 55 county chapters statewide have helped the number of abortions drop from 17,318 in 1987 to 7,249 in 2011.
By contrast, in 2011 neighboring states had the following number of abortions: Minnesota, 11,071; Michigan, 23,366; and Illinois, 41,366.
Lyons pointed to life-saving legislation in Wisconsin, education efforts among young people, and pro-life television ads as some of the reasons why Wisconsin’s abortion rate has dropped.
Wisconsin Right to Life is also backing several pro-life bills in the current state legislative session including a prohibition on using abortion as a method of sex selection and a proposal to prohibit the use of public funds to pay a physician, surgeon, or hospital, clinic or other medical facility for the performance of an abortion except in certain cases specified in current law.
Uhler is editor of the Catholic Herald, newspaper of the Madison Diocese.