By Eugene Kane Senior Writer and Columnist Published May 01, 2013 at 3:05 PM

The gruesome seven-week murder trail of an abortion doctor in Philadelphia went to the jury this week but the contentious civic debate over abortion will likely continue long after the final verdict is rendered.

For the month and a half, the trial of Philadelphia doctor Kermit Gosnell has been covered extensively by media outlets that never had as much interest in the two-year-old case previously, spurred by right-wing criticism that mainstream journalists were ignoring a significant court case involving the always hot-button issue.

On Tuesday, a jury began deliberations to decide whether Gosnell should be convicted of four counts of first degree murder at his community clinic after testimony from witnesses and experts that painted the doctor as either wildly incompetent or the victim of an exaggerated case by prosecutors.

The most sensational charges accuse Gosnell of cutting live babies in the back of their necks to sever their spines during accidental procedures. Eight former workers at the clinic have pleaded guilty to murder or other charges after testifying they saw babies move, breathe or demonstrate other movement after the doctor's actions.

It's become a sensational issue for pro-choice and anti-abortion groups alike, with some calling Gosnell's case an isolated incident of a possibly incompetent physicians while other claim it's an example of what routinely goes on in most abortion clinics across the nation.

It's Roe Vs. Wade being argued once again decades later, with pretty much no change in most people's attitudes.

A friend tells me that nothing ruins a dinner party more than guests arguing about abortion. It's also the source of bitter disagreements between otherwise close friends or acquaintances who just can't find common ground and resist being patronized for strong feelings on an intensely personal issue.

Wendy Ashlock, director the Affiliated Medical Services clinic on Milwaukee's East Side, has been following the Gosnell trial and has strong opinions on the public reaction.

"It seems to me some people are in a movement to prevent women from having safe and legal abortions," she said.

Ashloc said she thought much of the right-wing commentary about the Gosnell case amounted to "scare tactics" designed to influence the public debate over the Supreme Court case that settled the issue decades ago.

Ashbrook said her clinic regularly saw protesters outside their doors, but volunteer employees were utilized to prevent any harassment or coercion from female clients.

She understands the political aspect of abortion rights issues and the way some groups use the opposition to abortion for partisan reasons. "A lot times, things get skewed by political influences. That's typical."

Nobody wants to get into an argument about abortion these days, but the upcoming verdict on a sensational trial in Philadelphia will likely dominate the news cycle once it gets delivered.

It's more than just a discussion that ruins dinner parties for some. For some, it's a serious issue that has yet to be decided. 

Eugene Kane Senior Writer and Columnist

Eugene Kane is veteran Milwaukee journalist and nationally award winning columnist.

Kane writes about a variety of important issues in Milwaukee and society that impact residents of all backgrounds.