Fr. Frank Pavone, president of Priests for Life, is a Catholic priest who ministers to men and women hurt by our abortion culture. He did some reporting from the Gosnell trial, and just last week held a memorial service naming the babies we know died in the Philadelphia clinic. In an interview with National Review Online, he encourages us to consider this an urgent awakening.
KATHRYN JEAN LOPEZ: Does anything about the verdict surprise you?
FR. FRANK PAVONE: Having listened to the closing arguments in the courtroom, I thought the jury was going to be confused. The defense did inject a lot of doubt. But fundamentally, something like today’s outcome is what I expected. The testimony was pretty persuasive.
LOPEZ: Did the media during this trial suprise you?
PAVONE: We knew that the power of social media was increasing, and it was pleasantly surprising to see how the “Tweetfest” (organized in no small part by our youth-uutreach director at Priests for Life, Bryan Kemper) got the attention of so many in the mainstream media who then began to report on it.
LOPEZ: What stuck out to you when you were in the courtroom?
PAVONE: One of the most striking things was the account that in the raid of the clinic, no digoxin was found. If Dr. Gosnell was using this drug to kill the babies while they were still in the womb, as the defense claimed, there would have certainly been some of it in the clinic at the time of an unanticipated raid.
LOPEZ: In all of your pro-life work — about two decades? — is Gosnell the worst you’ve seen?
PAVONE: Unfortunately, no. Some of the abortionists we have gathered information on were even more directly harmful to women than he was accused of being, and at least just as careless in their abortions and uncaring about the lives they were ending. The book Lime 5 put out by Life Dynamics — to which we contributed info — has quite a litany of these examples.
LOPEZ: Why was it so important to name the babies, as you did last week?
PAVONE: The name expresses the person. Naming the babies counteracts the inhumanity with which they were treated. Moreover, naming them publicly helps us all in the healing process that we need as a nation once we witness a horror like this, just as naming her baby privately helps a post-abortive mom heal from her abortion. One of my Facebook friends commented that the only time she smiled during anything she heard about the Gosnell case was when she heard we had named the babies.
LOPEZ: Did America do Karnamaya Mongar a grave injustice?
PAVONE: It is certainly true to say that Americans did an injustice to this woman because as a society we allowed the most unregulated, unscrupulous medical industry — the abortion industry — to continue to operate under the conditions that killed her. It’s all avoidable, and her death will not have been in vain if it leads to a serious reform of abortion clinic oversight.
LOPEZ: What are the practical alternatives to a late-term abortion and how can we better support those providing alternatives?
PAVONE: One of them is the system of “Perinatal hospice,” pioneered by Dr. Byron Calhoun, which offers a positive way to deal with those situations when a baby in the womb is not expected to survive. Just getting to know about this option and spreading the word will strengthen this movement, since so many people end up at the abortion facility only because they don’t know there are other options.
LOPEZ: What can Catholics do better, to help?
PAVONE: There is, unfortunately, often too much of a “spiritual abstraction” in the approach many take to abortion and the pro-life effort. We have to take a page from the Gosnell case. Just as faith is concrete and physical (Incarnation, Eucharist, and the Catholic awareness of the goodness of material creation), so our pro-life effort needs to be unafraid to face — and point out to others — the concrete realities of abortion and what it does. We need to be convince that in these concrete, gory, and disturbing facts is precisely where many will find spiritual awakening — just as they do in the concrete, gory, and disturbing facts of the Lord’s Passion.