January/February, 1998 Volume XII Number 10

Abortionist charged with murder

by Paul deParrie

San Francisco, CA -- Bruce Saul Steir cut a swath of death and injury throughout his career. He probably would have been stopped years ago but for one fact -- he is an abortionist. And abortionists are too valuable to take out of circulation except under the most urgent circumstances.
When the death of Steir's patient, Sharon Hamptlon, 27, of Barstow was widely reported -- followed by revelations of his gruesome career (Life Advocate, May/June 1997), apparently public outrage was too much for the California State Medical Board to sweep under the rug or for the Riverside County District Attorney to continue to ignore.
So on October 22, 1997, Steir, 66, was arrested in his San Francisco home, turned over to the Riverside County Sheriff, and charged with murder. If convicted, Steir could face a sentence of 15-years to life.
Authorities said that Steir perforated Hamptlon's uterus during the abortion of a 5-month child at a Riverside abortuary and knowingly caught his flight back to San Francisco while the woman bled to death.
"The evidence showed he knew he perforated her uterus and didn't follow up with proper medical procedures," said Riverside County Deputy District Attorney Kennis Clark. A prosecutor's report stated that two physicians had reviewed the records and said that Steir knew or should have known that he had punctured Hamptlon's uterus.
The murder charge follows a Medical Board investigation in which Steir's record showed "instances of simple and extreme departure from the standard of practice of medicine" and "a lack of knowledge and ability to carry out his medical obligations to his patients."
"This guy is clearly a bad doc," said Jack Schuler, an attorney representing the Hamptlon family in a wrongful death suit.
Steir was barred from performing any medical procedures by a San Francisco administrative law judge earlier this year after the attorney general was informed of the Riverside incident. The abortionist surrendered his license to the state in March.
Steir has been on probation for similar occurrences with clients including five Bay-area women, and he has been the subject of other disciplinary action by the Medical Board. He was once disciplined for lying about having previous disciplinary actions on an application to practice at a Kaiser Permanente facility. He also once surrendered his Florida license in the wake of similar charges.
When Steir performed the abortion on Hamptlon, he was already on probation in California with several pending claims against him. He has been on probation since 1988 based on complaints stemming from his time working at a Navy medical center. In that year, a complaint arose as a result of another uterus perforation during a fifth-month abortion in San Francisco. The woman needed a bowel resection and a repair of the perforation, according to records.
More complaints were amassed and Steir was given an additional 5-year probation in 1993.
He was freed following arraignment after posting a $250,000 bond. He now claims that the charges against him are politically motivated.
"It's politically motivated by the anti-abortion forces in Riverside County," he said. "I have never been in jail. I have never had more than an overtime parking ticket. Then six detectives show up and arrest me in my home."
California legalized abortions before the Roe v. Wade decision.
Steir said, "I do not apologize for being an abortion provider. Since Roe v. Wade I have done a lot of abortions, between 30,000 and 40,000."
Steir's attorney, Doron Weinberg, said, "There is absolutely no basis for a murder charge here."
Local activists disagree. "He should be charged for 30 to 40,000 murders," said one.