The Philadelphia Medical Examiner's Office will dispose of the 47 fetuses held as evidence in the murder case against Philadelphia abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell.
That decision comes after weeks of dispute and requests by pro-life advocates who have been seeking a proper burial for the tiny remains.
"The City has received multiple requests for third-party organizations to claim the remains from the Women’s Medical Society Case," said Jeff Moran, spokesman for the Philadelphia Health Department.
"The City has determined that these remains will not be released to any unrelated third party. The remains will be given a proper and respectful disposition by the City in accordance with our standard practices. The Medical Examiner's Office is in the process of making these arrangements."
Parties that contacted the Medical Examiner with burial requests included Archbishop Charles Chaput on behalf of the Philadelphia Archdiocese and Father Frank Pavone, a priest from Staten Island, director of the organization, Priests for Life.
The Archdiocese of Philadelphia submitted a formal request for the remains and even set aside space at a local cemetery for burial. Spokesman Kenneth Gavin said the Archdiocese had not received a response from the City.
Father Pavone held vigil in front of the Philadelphia Medical Examiner's office this morning with about 50 supporters. He came to hand-deliver a letter to Medical Examiner Sam Gulino, stating that, "The public must be told where the bodies currently are."
"Thousands have expressed concerns that the babies be buried," said Pavone. "We're asking them to release the bodies for burial and they are refusing to do so without explanation."
Two Philadelphia police officers stood at the entrance to the ME's office, preventing Pavone and his supporters from entering.
"Why is there such a conflict over a basic practice of burying the dead," Pavone asked. He says 5,000 people have called or sent emails to the office to echo his request to "bury the babies."
Dr. Kermit Gosnell is serving a life sentence without the possibility for parole after a jury found him guilty of killing three babies born alive at his West Philadelphia abortion clinic. He snipped their spinal cords.
Bryan Kemper of Stand True Ministries traveled from Troy, Ohio to Philadelphia in May to attend four days of the trial. He returned today for the vigil.
"I'm a father crying out to give these children dignity," said Kemper. "I pray for this man (Gosnell) and pray for his soul. He had to be one tormented person to do what he did. We will not give up on this fight."
Pavone said Priests for Life will follow up with a letter and may pursue legal action.
"We believe the public deserves to know what will be done with the babies," Pavone said.
Moran has said previously that the remains will be cremated.