Of terror in Boston and horror in Philadelphia

The names and images of Tamerlan and Dzhokar Tsarnaev are now familiar, etched into U.S. history by the deadly shrapnel from the bombs they are suspected of placing at the finish line of the Boston Marathon on April 15 and the around-the-clock media coverage of their pursuit by authorities. The coverage is now shifting to why the brothers turned to such violence.

We all became Bostonians for a time. Prayers for the victims of the bombings and for officers killed or injured in the remarkable manhunt echoed throughout the Diocese of Peoria last weekend.

Meanwhile, raise your hand if you have heard of Dr. Kermit Barron Gosnell.

If the name is unfamiliar, you’re not alone. For some reason, Gosnell’s own horrific story of violence at a West Philadelphia medical clinic has, until recently, received scant media attention.

Gosnell is on trial for seven counts of infanticide. He allegedly brutally killed children already born alive by sticking a pair of medical scissors into the back of their necks and cutting their spinal cord. He called the procedure “snipping,” as if he were cutting hair.

Gosnell is also charged with murder in the case of a Nepalese woman who died during an abortion. His clinic has been called a “house of horrors” that somehow escaped regulation until a team of health officials looking into illegal drug use raided it in 2010. What the team found included the remains of 45 fetuses “in bags, milk jugs, orange juice cartons, and even in cat-food containers,” according to a grand jury report.

Despite the sensational elements of the story, the national media all but ignored it until grassroots pro-lifers questioned the silence, including in social media. Now the trial, which began March 18, is finally getting some coverage.

We don’t want Kermit Gosnell to be a household name. We do hope for justice for his alleged victims. And we can’t help but wonder how a week of around-the-clock media coverage of his trial — complete with photos of the bloody results of violence — might impact opinions about the sanctity of all human life and the violence that is abortion. If that saturation of coverage would ever occur, how might it encourage a needed dialogue about laws that supposedly protect a baby outside the womb but offer it no protection up to the moment of birth?

“We must overcome the culture of death and promote a culture of life,” said Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley at an interfaith service after the Boston bombings. We thank the “first responders” among us who in so many ways are doing their part to build a civilization based on love, justice, truth and service. — Thomas J. Dermody

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