This year’s commemoration of the 38-year-old Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion was accompanied by a couple of news reports that highlight the grip of a “culture of death” on our nation — and how it particularly victimizes minorities and the poor. 

The first was the coming-to-light of Pennsylvania abortionist Dr. Kermit Gosnell, arrested on eight murder charges, including of seven healthy, viable babies he is accused of delivering and then killing. 

The 261-page grand jury report is horrifying reading, and the jury’s own outrage is palpable, not just at Gosnell, who they said for years practiced infanticide as a matter of procedure, but at the regulatory agencies that were warned repeatedly about him but did nothing to stop him. 

They open the report this way: “This case is about a doctor who killed babies and endangered women. What we mean is that he regularly and illegally delivered live, viable babies in the third trimester of pregnancy — and then murdered these newborns by severing their spinal cords with scissors. The medical practice by which he carried out this business was a filthy fraud in which he overdosed his patients with dangerous drugs, spread venereal disease among them with infected instruments, perforated their wombs and bowels — and, on at least two occasions, caused their deaths. Over the years, many people came to know that something was going on here. But no one put a stop to it.” 

The callousness of those who could have done more to prevent the suffering and deaths is staggering. The report cites the head lawyer of Pennsylvania’s Department of Health justifying her agency’s “indifference” to serious and regular complaints about Gosnell’s clinic this way: “People die.” 

The grand jury came to its own conclusion about the indifference: “We think the reason no one acted is because the women in question were poor and of color, because the victims were infants without identities, and because the subject was the political football of abortion.” 

Gosnell’s alleged atrocities may have been unique in their degree and duration, but new statistics make it undeniable that abortion strikes hardest at minorities. The health department of New York City released numbers about a month ago showing that 39 percent of all pregnancies end in abortion there — about twice the national average. But, even more shockingly, 47 percent of all African-American pregnancies in the city end in abortion. 

Pro-lifers can draw some hope from the nearly universal expression of revulsion at the Pennsylvania case and dismay at the New York numbers. Our national conscience has not been deadened entirely. 

And, in fact, the polling agency Gallup noted last year a “real change in public opinion” on the abortion issue, as they found that, for the third consecutive time, more Americans identify themselves as pro-life than as pro-choice. “All age groups have become more attached to the pro-life label since 2005, with particularly large increases among young adults and those aged 50 to 64 years” in recent years, Gallup said. 

A legislative end to abortion still seems far off, but we detect an optimism and confidence in the pro-life cause that has never been greater. It appears to have successfully shed past negative stereotypes. It has taken up the banner of civil rights, and in both rhetoric and action supported minorities and women, and defended their rights. It has captured the imagination and passion of a new generation of young pro-lifers.

Editorial Board: Greg Erlandson, publisher; Msgr. Owen F. Campion, associate publisher; Beth McNamara, editorial director; John Norton, editor; Sarah Hayes, presentation editor.