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Inside the mind of convicted murderer, abortionist Kermit Gosnell: Part Three of Four

by | Sep 25, 2013

By Dave Andrusko

GosnellGuiltyOn Monday and Tuesday we discussed the run up to Steve Volk’s much-anticipated profile of abortionist Kermit Gosnell that appears this week in “Philadelphia” magazine. We drew some tentative conclusions by digging through the hints and signals and tiny excerpt whose purpose was to whet our appetite to purchase an inexpensive e-book where Volk goes into greater detail than he does in the magazine.

I spent the $2.99 to download “Kermit Gosnell’s Babies” and over the course of several hours I read and re-read Volk as he pondered how to make sense of a man convicted of three counts of first-degree murder—babies aborted alive and then slaughtered–and one count of involuntary manslaughter.

In some ways the next-to-penultimate paragraph shrewdly capture what can only be described as Gosnell’s very loose grip on reality. Though he’s serving three consecutive life sentences, at the end of the story, Gosnell says, “My life isn’t over.”

He’s jogging and doing yoga, perfecting his Spanish and sending letters to famous people and foundations, offering his services. “I think I would be a fitting person,” he told what I assume is a slack-jawed Volk, “to address people before they begin a global career in medicine.”

There’s no telling from this small book why Gosnell choose Volk among all the possible reporters to unburden himself to. Perhaps because although Volk attended the eight-week murder trial, he hadn’t previously written about the 72-year-old Gosnell (at least as far as I can tell). Perhaps because he thought Volk would accept at face value Gosnell’s “indirect” way of answering questions, which in practice apparently requires the audience to listen on end to Gosnell insisting that up is down, black is white, and if he wants something to be so, so it is.

I would encourage you to purchase “Philadelphia” magazine or (more easily) download the book. Volk’s piece offers enough quotable quotes that I could just string them end to end. Instead here are a few conclusions that hopefully tie together Volk’s argument (and it IS an argument).

Volk wants to think the charges are, at some level, overblown. Not that Gosnell hadn’t “stabbed them in the back of the neck with scissors,” as Volk writes near the end, and then severed the spinal cords of babies Gosnell had aborted alive. But rather that, for example, none of the babies Gosnell aborted alive moved as vigorously as some of the witnesses insisted.

But as you read the piece, clearly some of these babies had moved, to the point where it made some employees quit and aggravated the many, many psychological and emotional problems these poorly educated women already suffered from. For example

“The arm just jumped. Didn’t it? The leg jerked. Isn’t that baby…breathing? And sometimes, one of his assistants asked: Is that baby alive?

“No, [Gosnell] assured them. That wasn’t a real movement.” …

“Another time, [Ashley] Williams called her co-workers over to see a baby that lay on a counter in the clinic.

“Watch this,” she said.

She reached down to tug on the baby’s arm. The baby drew its arm back.”

To his credit Volk helps us understand just how amazingly filthy —Gosnell’s Women’s Medical Society abortion clinic was. One example: A maintenance man approached one of the many, many sick cats that infested the clinic, thinking it was dead.

“But when he picked it up, it started moving. He felt the whole body, seemingly, rippling between his fingers. Shocked, he went completely still, staring at the cat till he could process what was happening. The cat was dead. Stiff like a baseball bat. But fleas, thousand of them, moved in waves through the cat’s fur.”

But authorities had just as much trouble “processing” Gosnell’s bizarre behavior the night of the raid. Unbelievably, the first thing he asked was if he could feed his turtles. Later

“Gosnell tended to one patient, a woman pushing out a stillborn fetus; he returned, still calm, and asked if the agents minded if he ate his dinner. He sat down, pulled a plate of salmon teriyaki from a paper sack, and started to eat with his torn and bloody surgical gloves still covering his hands.”

But Volk is looking for Gosnell as representative or symbolic of something far larger than himself–the “moral balance” all Americas are looking for on the abortion issue?

Gosnell, Volk writes, ”found his own sense of equilibrium somewhere beyond the law, good sense and decency, making choices we find unfathomable, till the police came.” That’s a load which we need to debunk.

Indeed there is so much to the story that, if you don’t mind, we’ll extend this one more day. Volk tells us about his epiphany in which “Suddenly, the central mystery of Gosnell—How could he kill those babies?–had an answer.”

See you tomorrow.

Categories: Gosnell