Saturday, December 13, 2014

A Woman's Death in 1996 Death Highlights Abortion-Rights Priorities

Both of today's deaths from the Cemetery of Choice are from safe, legal abortions. I have almost no information on the death from 1984. Thirty-year-old Sandra Williams was 11 weeks pregnant when she underwent an abortion on December 12. She went home following the abortion. Less than twelve hours later, she was dead.  Her death certificate noted that she died from a pulmonary embolism.

There is a plethora of information, however, on the other abortion death. It became quite a cause of outrage from abortion-rights activists, not because a woman died, but because the man who had killed her was prosecuted for doing so.

Important Background

In one session of a National Abortion Federation Risk Management Seminar, a participant indicated that when he pulled bowel (extracted part of a patient's bowel through a perforation in her uterus), his preferred method of treatment (if you can call it that) was to stuff the bowel back through the perforation, administer medications to make the uterus contract and control bleeding, monitor the woman more carefully in recovery, and if she seemed okay, send her home none the wiser.

The moderator was appalled. He pointed out that even if there was no obvious injury to the bowel, it might be bruised and damaged. The recommended procedure is to admit the patient to the hospital and examine her bowel, and observe her for signs of further injury. The moderator then asked how many of the other participants followed this method of stuffing the bowel back in and hoping for the best. Six participants raised their hands to be counted.

This, mind you, was at a gathering of abortion practitioners who are held up as the most diligent and professional in the world. This was a gathering of practitioners who cared enough about staying up-to-date on developments in abortion practice to invest money and time attending a seminar on risk management. But even among this group, and even after the moderator had lambasted one participant for this alarming means of dealing with an injury, six participants nevertheless raised their hands and admitted to using it.

Sharon Hamplton with
her son, Curtis
It was only a matter of time before one of these bowel-pulling abortionists killed somebody. That's when the unwitting Sharon Yvonne Hamplton stepped into the picture. Sharon was a single mother who worked part-time at Burger King while attending community college. Sharon's mother said that Sharon wanted to get off welfare and become a nurse.

Misplaced Trust

Sharon went to Dr. Bruce Steir (rhymes with "fear") at A Lady's Choice Women's Medical Center for a safe, legal abortion on December 13, 1996.

Dr. Bruce Steir
Steir was already on probation with the medical board at the time of Sharon's abortion; he had a history of botching abortions, including causing uterine perforations. He'd been found negligent in six abortion cases, including three in which the woman had to undergo a hysterectomy. One woman had to have a fetal skull removed from a tear in her uterus. Joseph Durante, who owned the facility, was also on probation with the medical board at the time of Sharon's fatal abortion. He had attempted a late abortion which resulted in the birth of a live but injured infant.

Sharon's mother, Doris Hamplton, later said, "I don't know how she heard about Dr. Durante's offices. I think he was recommended by the people at San Bernardino County Social Services or by Dr. Krider."

"I understand that because Dr. Durante and Dr. Steir were on probation they were not entitled to Medi-Cal payment, but they got it anyway," Doris said. "I understand that their office was not accredited as an ambulatory surgical office, and that it was supposed to be accredited to comply with the law. I had no idea that Dr. Durante and Dr. Steir were on probation with the Medical Board for incompetence and negligence against women patients. I am sure that Sharon did not know either. If I had known, I would never have taken Sharon to such a bad place with such bad doctors."

At The Clinic

Sharon was 20 weeks pregnant. According to Nancy Myles, an ultrasound technician who was assisting Steir during Sharon's abortion, Steir was having trouble locating and extracting the fetal skull. She said that Steir looked at her strangely and said, "I think I pulled bowel." Steir remained at the facility for less than an hour after Sharon's abortion. She was still in the recovery room when he left.

Sharon's mother had been waiting outside the clinic with Sharon's son. What happened next is in Doris' own words:
Maybe around 3:00 pm I took Curtis inside to use the bathroom. I saw a grey haired man dressed in green surgical clothes sitting at a desk. He said, "You know she is far along." I said, "No. I didn't know because she didn't tell me."

Then I saw Sharon in the recovery room about 3:30 or 4:00 pm. She looked so bad that I felt scared. She was laying on a lazyboy style chair with an IV in her left arm and a blood pressure cuff on the other. She looked very pale. Her eyes were partially open and I could see only the whites of her eyes as if she were in shock. She was not speaking and her whole body was shaking real hard in big shivers. Her legs were especially bad. The doctor said, "She doesn't react to drugs well." ....

A woman came in and said that Sharon didn't need the blankets that were on her already and pulled the blankets off. Other girls in the recovery room were vomiting and the attendant woman told the girls to keep vomiting, that vomiting was good for them at this time. I went back to the waiting room and a Spanish lady came out and said that Sharon would be ready in a few minutes as soon as the IV finished.

Sharon was in the recovery for only about 45 minutes, because at 5:00 pm they came out and said she was ready to leave. I heard someone say that the doctor was real busy and he had to rush out like he was going to the airport, something about him having to go to Sacramento or San Francisco. I saw two women struggling to place Sharon in a wheelchair. Sharon could not walk at all and she was not speaking. She looked very, very pale now.

On the Drive Home

The women loaded Sharon into the back seat of her mother's car. Doris put Curtis in the car and they drove off. Again, this is what Doris had to say:
On the way home to Barstow, I stopped at Wendy's to get a sandwich for little Curtis. I tried to wake Sharon but all she said was "Huh, Huh." Then Curtis said, "Mamma, I love you. Do you need anything? Are you okay?" And Sharon said, "Okay. I'll take a drink."

Sharon was lying in the backseat of the car and said to Curtis, "Come on back with me Curtis. I love you and so I could hold you and you could go to sleep." She was silent for about one hour. Near Victorville, she said, "I'm so hot. Please let the window down." I opened the window a bit. After that, Sharon was silent forever.

We got home to Barstow and I saw that Sharon, still laying in the back seat was naked from the waist up, having removed her shirt, shoes and socks. I started yelling, "Sharon. Sharon. Wake up," but she didn't and my husband, Ben Hamptlon, said, "Call 911."

It was too late. Sharon had bled to death from the hole in her uterus.

The Aftermath

Steir's mugshots
Because of the circumstances surrounding Sharon's death as reported by her mother and by Steir's assistant, Steir was arrested and charged with murder in Sharon's death.

Pro-choice organizations, including the national leadership of NOW, and the National Abortion Federation, the ACLU of Northern California, and the California Abortion and Reproduction Rights League, rallied around Steir. One supporter stood outside the courthouse with a sign reading, "Abortion doctors are heroes, defend Dr. Bruce Steir." The Feminist Women's Health Center in Chico, with whom he once was affiliated, set up a "defense committee" and raised funds for his legal expenses.

The Steir Defense Committee painted a glowing picture of him, ignoring the injuries and disciplinary actions:

Dr. Steir, a Board Certified OB-GYN, has performed abortion since the Roe V. Wade decision in 1973. He has traveled extensively throughout the state providing services to women, both in urban and rural areas. He, like many abortion doctors, has worked in a variety of clinics over the years, including physician's offices, Feminist Clinics, and Planned Parenthood. He worked for the Feminist Women's Health Center in Chico, Redding, Sacramento, and Santa Rose for 12 years and served as Medical Director.
Given Steir's alarming history of malpractice, this is more of an indictment of California abortion facilities than a vindication of Steir.

Eventually Steir entered a guilty plea in exchange for a light sentence. He was sentenced to a year in prison, with six months of the sentence suspended in leiu of community service. He was also given five years' probation. At the sentencing hearing, four years after Sharon's death, Sharon's father said he still often pulled his car to the side of the road, looked at his daughter's picture, and wept.

Steir was released after serving only four months of his sentence. He is still viewed as a martyr for the abortion-rights and even wrote a book, Jailhouse Journal of an OB/GYN,  which is gushed over by abortion-rights activists, including Claudette Begin of Solidarity who dismisses the testimony of Sharon's mother as being purely due to anti-abortion motivation. One blogger even elevates him to "Dr. Steir: Warrior for Women."

The idea that Steir was railroaded simply because he did abortions holds little water when one considers how many other women have died from abortions performed in California without a single doctor being prosecuted. Surely if there was a huge and powerful anti-abortion conspiracy to persecute hapless providers of vital reproductive health care services, there would be homicide charges filed every time an abortion patient died. Steir stands alone in that, purely a victim. Sharon and her family are forgotten.

Doris's Closing Thoughts

I cry every day for the terrible loss of my daughter, and I am overwhelmed that 3 year old Curtis had his mother taken away forever. My husband, Ben Hamptlon, (father of Sharon), is sick with grief, has terrible head pain, is under the care of a doctor for this and has been taking strong pain medicine since Sharon's death. My prayer is that these doctors be stopped immediately so that no other girl will be killed and that no other family will have to suffer as we have.

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