GRAND JURY reports are serious things, despite the cynical cliché that a determined prosecutor can get a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich.
So even though I cringed at what was written in the one on the Catholic Church sex-abuse scandal, I accepted the findings and welcomed the opportunity to disinfect the sacristy.
And even though I almost lost my lunch after reading the report on Kermit Gosnell and his abortion chamber of horrors, I was glad to know that concerned citizens had taken steps to stop the carnage.
I was in the majority with respect to the church, since the reaction from the public was expressed in vitriolic letters and columns detailing the anguish and anger of "faithful Catholics."
Despite a few ritual nods to that annoying detail of due process for the accused, the consensus was that the church has grossly violated the laws of God and man.
And, for a while, I was also in the majority that praised the grand jury report on the Gosnell operation. Until, that is, our district attorney had some second thoughts.
Seth Williams was brave and committed about the crimes committed (OK, allegedly committed) by Dr. D&X in West Philly. He courageously talked about murdered "babies" - as opposed to the euphemistic term "fetus" - and made it clear that Gosnell would not be protected by the veil of political correctness that cloaks any discussion about a woman's "right to choose." The women described in the Gosnell report did not choose to be mutilated, nor the babies to be butchered.
But then, a strange thing happened. Our intrepid D.A.'s crystal-clear vision apparently got clouded by the smoke screen set up by Planned Parenthood and its like-minded friends in the abortion-rights movement.
From the start, the people who look at Roe v. Wade as the 11th Commandment ("Thou Shalt Not Kill Unless It's Convenient for the Mother") started working on Williams to convince him that the clear and righteous language of the grand jury report wasn't so clear after all.
Most of us who dared to read the report came away with the idea that the government had dropped the ball in the Gosnell case by allowing his clinic, and others, to go completely unregulated, as noted in an Inquirer article:
"The report questioned, in one damning paragraph after another, why state health officials didn't treat the clinics as ambulatory surgical facilities - subject to stringent standards, annual inspections, and unannounced visits to investigate complaints."
Pretty unambiguous, right?
Not for Planned Parenthood, which waved its magic wand and - poof! - convinced Williams that some words don't necessarily mean what they say. (Shades of President Clinton.)
When he found out that the Pennsylvania Legislature was considering bills that would tighten restrictions on abortion clinics, including House Bill 754, which would treat most of them as "ambulatory surgical facilities," he fired off a letter to Harrisburg to, as he helpfully put it, "clarify the intent of the Grand Jury." This is what the report now means in "Seth-speak":
"The Grand Jurors did not recommend that the Legislature change the definition of ambulatory surgical facility to include all abortion clinics. Nor did it recommend that abortion clinics be singled out for licensure under the Health Care Facilities Act simply because they offer abortions."
The dramatic italics, by the way, belong to Williams.
The D.A. is playing word games here. On Page 160 of the report, the grand jury states: "The Department of Health's decades-long neglect of its duty to ensure the health and safety of women undergoing medical procedures in abortion clinics is in stark contrast to its policies and practices with respect to procedures performed in other types of health care facilities."
This time, the dramatic italics are mine. It's crystal-clear that the grand jury meant for abortion clinics to be singled out because the opposite had been happening for so many years.
Opposed to putting any impediments to make it harder for women to get abortions, the state Department of Health looked the other way and let women die. Had these atrocities occurred at any other type of clinic, you can be sure that it wouldn't have taken three decades before someone did something.
It's sad that Williams would allow himself to be used by the "choice" industry. After having courageously stared evil in the face, he blinked.
Should we now expect a letter to "clarify the intent" of the sex-abuse grand jury report?
Don't hold your breath.
Christine M. Flowers is a lawyer. Email
firstname.lastname@example.org. She blogs at philly.com/philly/blogs/flowersshow.