Yesterday, a judge in Riverside County, Calif., sentenced Dr. Bruce
Steir to one year in jail for the involuntary manslaughter of Sharon
Hamptlon, on whom
Steir performed a botched second-trimester
The 68-year-old was taken into custody immediately.
|Dr. Bruce Steir|
“We’re devastated,” said Shauna Heckert, executive director of the
Feminist Women’s Health Center in Chico. Over his 20-year career, Steir performed thousands of abortions at the clinic, which also has facilities in Redding, Sacramento and Santa Rosa.
“There were many other ways to go,” Heckert continued. The judge could have put Steir on probation, under house arrest or given him community service hours, she said. But incarceration is “horribly punitive and sets a horrible precedent for physicians all over the country.”
“He couldn’t even go home” to take care of personal matters before he was taken into custody, added Heckert.
Hamptlon, then a 27-year-old Medi-Cal patient, bled to death in front of her three-year-old son while being driven home by her mother after the abortion in December 1996. Her death was the result of a punctured uterus, initially ruled accidental by the San Bernardino County coroner’s office. However, six weeks later, after a routine investigation by the
California Medical Board, the coroner changed his report, calling the death a homicide.
Steir was accused of “gross negligence” and a lack of “due caution” for his actions. Prosecutor Kennis Clark argued the doctor knew he made a lethal mistake during the abortion of Hamptlon’s 20-week pregnancy but failed to call emergency personnel because his medical license was already on probation for previous allegations of negligence.
Steir performed about 1,000 abortions a year and he admitted making a mistake in Hamptlon’s case — although he still maintains he was unaware of the seriousness of her complications. He believes the emotional politics of abortion were driving the case against him.
Having been on probation with the medical board since 1988, Steir surrendered his license to practice medicine four months after Hamptlon’s death.
Pro-life advocates believe Steir’s sentence was justified.
“I think that this is too light of a sentence for somebody who has killed a woman because of terrible negligence,” said J.T. Finn, director of
“We need to let Americans know that women are being butchered and hurt and injured by abortions more frequently than the press has let us know,” he continued. “This is jut one of many women who have been killed by abortion. We need to encourage our prosecutors and judges to really go after abortionists who are injuring and hurting women in the abortion industry.”
Elizabeth Kelly, executive director of the Women’s Resource Clinic in Chico, finds the criminal prosecution unusual — doctors are rarely held criminally liable for malpractice — but believes Steir committed murder.
“With all the lives that he’s taken, with this one single act … he took two lives,” she said.
Kelly expressed her desire for the convicted doctor to “find hope and healing.” He needs to see that “these acts are wrong,” she said, noting the special treatment abortion receives as a surgical procedure.
“I can’t go to a doctor and say, ‘I need to have this (non-abortion) surgical procedure,’” she said. The doctor will need to gather several facts about the patient’s medical history before proceeding.
“But you can just walk into a clinic and have a doctor [perform an abortion],” Kelly continued. “It’s the only medical procedure that we allow that to happen.”
Botched-abortion doctor pleads guilty