The release of a movie with its corresponding book, as well as an additional book, detailing the crimes of Kermit Gosnell could not be more timely. As renewed attention is being given to the case of the Philadelphia abortionist who was sentenced to life in prison, people are preparing for memorial services across the nation at the gravesites of babies killed by abortion.

Gosnell was convicted of the first-degree murder of three infants born alive during botched abortions and the involuntary manslaughter of a mother on whom he performed an abortion. The infants, who were well past 20 weeks gestation, were murdered by having their spines cut with scissors shortly after delivery.

Those who came to be aware of Gosnell's crimes were appropriately horrified. But the horror raises the question of why it is any less horrifying to decapitate and dismember a baby of the same age while still in the womb.

Research indicating that these children are capable of feeling pain is very compelling. And there's plenty of it. Once people learn that mid-trimester abortions exist, are not rare, and are carried out by dismemberment, they reject it. In fact, most people want tighter restrictions on abortion beyond the first trimester. Perhaps the growing awareness that children are being torn limb from limb and can feel the pain of it is what is motivating states to enact laws that protect pain-capable babies in the womb who are 20 weeks and beyond.

Pennsylvania, which is not far behind in enacting such a law, is also one of many states across the nation that will be participating in the fifth annual National Day of Remembrance for Aborted Children on Saturday, Sept. 9. Perhaps the most prominent service will take place at the gravesite of some of the babies who were killed by Gosnell.

Many will gather to remind the community that the victims of abortion are not just numbers — they're our brothers and sisters.

The vision behind the annual memorial which I helped to found five years ago is to take abortion out of the realm of abstract debate and bring it into the concrete humanity we experience each day. It is far too easy to slip into the arena of ideas when we are talking about abortion. Visiting a gravesite where real human beings are buried reinforces that we are talking about the life and death of real people.

Those who participate do so out of a desire to make reparation for the lack of reverence with which these victims have been treated. Victims are either thrown away as trash, sold for their body parts, or flushed away.

In fact, after the raid of Gosnell's office and his conviction, the medical examiner's office denied the requests of Priests for Life and the Archdiocese of Philadelphia to release bodies for proper burial. Priests for Life meanwhile held a memorial service and named those babies. It wasn't until after the covert cremation and burial in unmarked graves that Priests for Life became aware of their location. Since then, an annual memorial has been held there, as well as in other locations nationwide to remember unborn children everywhere who have been killed by abortion.

The proper and necessary response to abortion is a broken heart. And hence we come together to grieve. Some participants have had abortions or have helped others to do so. They come with regret, sorrow, and a longing for healing. The National Day of Remembrance brings people along the path of that healing and invites those who don't know about it yet. It isn't just mothers and fathers who come, but those who, in some way, had something to do with a decision that cost a child his or her life.

This is why our ministries Silent No More and Rachel's Vineyard work so diligently towards this goal. We are mindful of the shockwaves caused by abortion, affecting not just moms and dads, but grandparents, siblings, uncles, aunts, friends, and the abortionists and their staff.

The Lord said in the Sermon on the Mount "Blessed are they who mourn." God's heart is broken and ours have to be broken, too. Many pro-life activists start out in this ministry because they feel utter loss and broken- hearted over these children.

It is when our hearts are broken that they open wide enough for grace to enter in and move us to action. It is when we are broken-hearted that we advocate for those for whom our hearts are broken. We will continue this tradition of honoring the victims of abortion and mourning at their graves until the day the law recognizes their dignity and we no longer have to rescue the tiny bodies from trash bins or landfills.

Father Frank Pavone (@frfrankpavone) is a contributor to the Washington Examiner's Beltway Confidential blog. He is the national director of Priests for Life.

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