Kermit Gosnell, the former abortion doctor sentenced to life in prison for his role in three murders that took place at his Philadelphia clinic, has said that he performed hundreds of illegal abortions as "a soldier in a war against poverty."
Gosnell, 72, was found guilty in May on three counts of murder, one count of involuntary manslaughter, and many lesser counts relating to illegal late-term abortions performed at his West Philadelphia "house of horrors" clinic.
Among the crimes that outraged people was testimony that Gosnell killed infants born live by snipping their spinal cords.
Philadelphia magazine reporter Steve Volk, who spoke with Gosnell in exclusive interviews from prison where he is serving three life sentences, told ABCNews.com that Gosnell is an "intelligent" and "charismatic" man who insists that he is not a "monster."
"He believes himself to be innocent ... in this larger spiritual sense. He believes he was performing a service for people that asked him," said Volk, whose article "Gosnell's Babies" will appear in Philadelphia magazine on Tuesday. "He believes he was a soldier at war with poverty. He has a sense of righteousness, that whatever rule he broke, it was worth it."
Volk, who covered Gosnell's trial and has been speaking and corresponding with him since he entered prison, said that the convicted killer sees abortion as sinful on some level, but a lesser sin than a child being born into a life of poverty.
"It's not as if he feels guilty about what he did. He sees the world is a dark place. He sees himself as having performed a noble function in society. For him, in a perfect, idealized world, it wouldn't be necessary," Volk said.
Gosnell ran the Women's Medical Society in west Philadelphia for decades until February 2010 when FBI agents raided his clinic looking for evidence of prescription drug dealing.
Instead they found, as reported in a nearly 300 page grand jury report released in 2011, a filthy, decrepit "house of horrors." Blood was on the floor, the clinic reeked of urine and bags of fetal remains were stacked in freezers.
The clinic was shut down and Gosnell's medical license was suspended after the raid. It was described by the grand jury as a "pill mill" for drug addicts by day and an "abortion mill" by night.
Prosecutors alleged that Gosnell killed seven babies born alive by severing their spinal cords with scissors, and that he was also responsible for the 2009 death Karnamaya Mongar, a 41-year-old refugee from Bhutan. She died from a lethal dose of drugs at the clinic, the jury concluded.
Speaking with Volk about Mongar's death, Gosnell said that one death in 40 years of practice does not indicate a poor record. He also said that he believes Mongar had been previously medicated before he saw her.
"He insists that she had some sort of drugs before the clinic," Volk said. "He thinks she had some sort of pain patch."
Volk says that Gosnell has had contact with his wife Pearl, who is serving seven to 23 months in prison for helping him perform illegal abortions, and that he has been in contact with his own children.
Calls placed to Gosnell's attorney by ABCNews.com were not immediately returned.
While in jail he has been reading the Bible, perfecting his Spanish, exercising, and has been contacting charities, such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Clinton Global Initiative in attempts to be heard on issues like prison and justice reform.
"He believes that he gained insight into what it's like to be pushed into the system, without the capacity to explain himself," Volk said. "He believes if he could have spoken about his rationale for doing things, he wouldn't be in jail ... There is no anger, no desperation [in his voice.] He believes he was in a war, and that 'they' won."