US abortion doctor gets 3rd life sentence for baby death

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - A US abortion doctor was sentenced on Wednesday to a third life term for killing an aborted baby that he described as so big it could "walk to the bus". The case has made Dr Kermit Gosnell a flashpoint in the nation's bitter debate over legalised abortion.

Gosnell was convicted this week of first-degree murder in the deaths of three babies born alive then stabbed with scissors. He was given two life sentences on Tuesday in a deal with prosecutors that spared him a potential death sentence. The third sentence was handed down on Wednesday.

The 72-year-old Gosnell was also sentenced to two to five years in prison for the 2009 overdose death of a patient who was repeatedly sedated by his untrained medical assistants.

Prosecutors argued that Gosnell killed late-term babies born alive by severing their spines and taught several staff members the technique. Nine former clinic workers were convicted, and four others pleaded guilty to murder.

Gosnell has seemed serene in court and apparently sees himself as a medical pioneer and advocate for inner-city patients. He chose not to address the judge during Wednesday's sentencing.

Prosecutors said he grew increasingly reckless as he accumulated millions of dollars from his rogue clinic, which was described as a "pill mill" for addicts by day and an "abortion mill" by night.

A 2011 grand jury investigation into Gosnell's alleged prescription drug trafficking led to the findings about his abortion clinic. During an FBI raid, authorities found 47 aborted fetuses stored in clinic freezers, jars of tiny severed feet, bloodstained furniture and dirty medical instruments, along with cats roaming the premises.

Prosecution experts said the teen carrying Baby A, whose death Gosnell was sentenced in Wednesday, was nearly 30 weeks pregnant when Gosnell aborted her fetus. A second baby was said to be alive for about 20 minutes before a clinic worker snipped the neck. A third was born in a toilet and was moving before another clinic employee severed the spinal cord, according to testimony.

A fourth baby let out a whimper before Gosnell cut the neck, prosecutors alleged. Gosnell was acquitted in that baby's death, the only one of the four in which no one testified to seeing the baby killed.

Gosnell's lawyer, Jack McMahon. has argued that none of the fetuses was born alive and that any movements were posthumous twitching or spasms. Gosnell was acquitted in the deaths of four other infants.

Prosecutors had planned to seek the death penalty because Gosnell killed more than one person and his victims were especially vulnerable, given their age. But Gosnell's advanced age had made it unlikely he would ever be executed before his appeals ran out.

Mr McMahon, said his client accepts the verdict and isn't sorry he went to trial.

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