By George Gregory
Special to The CS&T

IMMACULATA – The Jan. 19 arrest of abortion provider Kermit Gosnell drew national and international attention to his West Philadelphia abortion clinic, the Women’s Medical Society. A Philadelphia grand jury report called it a true “house of horrors.”

This was one of numerous pro-life issues discussed at a town hall meeting hosted by the Pennsylvania Pro-Life Federation at Immaculata University Friday, April 15.

Gosnell is charged with eight counts of murder – one count for 41-year-old Bhutanese immigrant Karnamaya Mongar, who died following a botched procedure at his clinic, and seven counts for infants born full term, whose spinal cords were severed with scissors. {{more}}

The grand jury suspects Gosnell and his untrained employees, including his wife, may have done the same to many others, but only records for the seven could be found and held as evidence.

According to the report, in 1993 former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge’s administration disbanded the regular inspection of abortion clinics in the state, citing political reasons and the desire to not inhibit women from seeking abortions. As a result, state health officials failed to inspect clinics like Gosnell’s for 17 years, the report stated. Gosnell also operated a clinic in Wilmington, Del. Low-income women, minorities and immigrants make up a large portion of the clientele of these establishments.

“This town hall meeting represents an opportunity to talk about what the Pro-Life Federation is doing in response to this horrific tragedy,” said Michael Ciccocioppo, executive director of the Pennsylvania Pro-Life Federation, the state’s affiliate of the National Right to Life Committee. “The Gosnell case is truly a wake-up call for Pennsylvania, and we are lobbying for legislation that will provide stricter scrutiny of abortion facilities and their staffs.”

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett has acted swiftly in response to what happened at the West Philadelphia clinic, announcing sweeping changes in the Pennsylvania Departments of Health and State and demanding annual inspections of abortion centers.

The meeting at Immaculata was the culmination of a five-day, nine-city tour making its way around the state. Similar meetings were held last week in Altoona, Latrobe, Pittsburgh, Greenville, Erie, Mansfield, Scranton and Bethlehem.

Besides speaking of the Gosnell case, numerous other topics were discussed, including health care reform, the U.S. Supreme Court, Planned Parenthood, ultrasound legislation, euthanasia, physician assisted suicide, embryonic stem cell research and the use of social media to help spread the message.

“The Internet is the future of the pro-life movement,” said Maria Vitale, education director of the Pa. Pro-Life Federation. “To embrace the Internet is to embrace the unborn child and save lives.”

The federation has a large presence on Facebook, which has over 600 million users worldwide, and also on Twitter, which has more than 200 million users.

“As a trust and estates lawyer, I see the legal side and legislation related to end-of-life issues every day, and unfortunately, the language in many documents spells out less end-of-life care,” said Mark Deal, a member of St. Joseph Parish in Downingtown.

The meeting ended with a question-and-answer session in which questions were anonymously written on index cards, collected and read aloud.

Representatives from the Montgomery County and Bucks County chapters of the Pro-Life Federation were also in attendance. There are no chapters currently in Chester and Delaware Counties.

The ultimate goals of the meeting were to share the latest news and information on pro-life issues, to inform about what the federation is doing in response and to energize and inspire all concerned persons to become more active and involved.

George Gregory is a parishioner of St. Cecilia Parish in Coatesville.