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An abortion provider from Philadelphia is spending life in prison following his first-degree murder conviction in the death of three babies.
Kermit Gosnell was called a monster for what he did, and how he did it – ending the lives of fetuses past the legal limit in Pennsylvania.
But who he is, why he did what he did, and how he got away with it for so long, remains a mystery.
"There was a lot of conjecture about what motivated Gosnell and people said he was greedy, crazy, he is a monster. I think that at bottom, he was a true believer in abortion rights," said reporter Steve Volk, the only journalist Gosnell has spoken with while in prison.
"He professed to be a deeply religious man, and I believe the depths of those beliefs enabled him to rationalize all of the other choices he made along the way," said Volk.
For the Philadelphia reporter, a big takeaway from the Gosnell story is "what can happen when a self-righteous belief in yourself, and your own authority, spirals out of control."
Volk compiled the dozens of letters, e-mails, and phone conversations he had with Gosnell into an article for Philadelphia Magazine, and an e-book, "Gosnell's Babies."
Read an excerpt from Steve Volk's article here.
Volk's reporting reveals that in addition to Gosnell being a murderer, the case was a failure of the Philadelphia and Pennsylvania medical establishment.
"We will never know how many people do bear responsibility, but certainly there are a lot of them. There are a few people who try to do the right thing along the way. And then above them, it seems there was always somebody who was willing to look the other way," said Volk.
A key moment of Volk's story comes when he realizes while talking to Gosnell that he considers fetuses that have been removed and are still alive to be essentially dead because they have no hope for survival.
"He talked to me about this concept he called 'fatal blighting,'" said Volk. Gosnell would inject the fetus with a certain drug intended to stop its heart.
"Once he had done that, the baby was 'fatally blighted' and any movement it might have shown at that point would not be what he would consider a real movement," said Volk. "He sort of retreated behind this position a lot when we talked. That was one of the most disturbing parts of our conversation."