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It has been almost four months since Kermit Gosnell was convicted for the murder of three infants. The bodies of those infants and 44 others, seized as evidence from Gosnell’s clinic, have not yet been buried. They remain in the custody of the Philadelphia medical examiner.

Archbishop Charles Chaput of the Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia has set aside burial plots for all 47 infants and petitioned the medical examiner to release the bodies. Multiple pro-life groups have offered to pay for the burials. Yet Medical Examiner Sam Gulino says that he cannot release bodies to “unrelated third parties.” This contradicts the Frequently Asked Questions section of his office’s website , which says, “Anyone, including friends and neighbors, may claim a body three days after the date of pronouncement of death.”

Last week, activists held a vigil outside of the medical examiner’s office, seeking the release of the bodies. The medical examiner has assured those who have inquired that the remains will receive a “respectful disposition.” Gulino’s spokesperson said that unclaimed remains may be held up to 10 years before they are cremated or buried. In 2010, the Philadelphia medical examiner’s office buried the cremated remains of 1500 people (who died before the year 2000) at Laurel Hill Cemetery.

Perhaps—to give him the benefit of the doubt—Gulino expects one of the mothers who ended her pregnancy at Gosnell’s clinic to come forward and claim the body of her baby. DNA testing could tie the fetal remains to a parent. But since the bodies were discovered in 2010, it seems highly likely that any such parent is waiting to come forward.

These unborn babies did not deserve death, but they deserve to be mourned and to be buried quickly in a marked grave. It will be a tragic, final indignity if they are not.

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