The Rev. Patrick J. Mahoney's voice rose to a shout Sunday evening as he spoke about abortionist Kermit Gosnell.

But Mahoney would have had the audience in his corner with a whisper.

The Presbyterian minister was joined by nearly 60 activists at a West Philadelphia rally and prayer vigil at which they sought a burial for what they called the "Gosnell babies" - the remains of 47 fetuses found in the physician's freezer.

"These children need to be treated with dignity and respect," Mahoney cried, "and like any other member of the human family, they need to have a proper burial and funeral."

The city Medical Examiner's Office has declined to turn over the fetal remains to a coalition of antiabortion groups, saying they are not related parties, and it has has pledged to give the remains "a respectful disposition."

In past cases of unclaimed remains, the city has waited up to 10 years before burial - a situation Mahoney and the other activists said would be unacceptable in the case of the Gosnell remains.

Gosnell, convicted of murder for killing infants born alive during late-term abortions, has been sentenced to life imprisonment.

Mahoney, who directs the Christian Defense Coalition in Washington, was joined by speakers from several national antiabortion groups. They spoke and prayed for two hours at a Drexel University auditorium before marching to the site of Gosnell's former clinic at 38th Street and Lancaster Avenue.

Catherine Glenn Foster, a lawyer for the nonprofit Alliance Defending Freedom, disputed the medical examiner's reasoning in declining the groups' request. She cited the city office's website, which states: "Anyone, including friends and neighbors, may claim a body three days after the date of pronouncement of death."

"We will not forget the horror of that little brick building," Foster said at the rally. "We will not forget Gosnell's tiniest victims."

Contact Tom Avril at 215-854-2430 or tavril@phillynews.com.