RIVERSIDE — An abortion doctor who pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter for a mistake that took a Barstow patient's life was sentenced Friday to a year in jail.
Bruce Steir, 69, also was put on formal probation for 60 months and ordered to perform 1,000 hours of community service. Riverside Superior Court Judge Vilia Sherman suspended 180 days of the jail sentence, meaning Steir will have to serve six months.
The doctor, who lives in San Francisco, surrendered immediately to sheriff's deputies in the courtroom.
He originally was charged with second-degree murder after Sharon Hamptlon, 27, of Barstow bled to death in December 1996 after Steir performed an abortion in a Moreno Valley clinic.
An autopsy determined that Hamptlon died on the ride home to Barstow after her uterus had been perforated during the abortion.
The murder charge was dropped after Steir pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter.
In announcing the sentence, Sherman said Steir is in "no way comparable to an intentional killer."
"However, he is culpable of gross negligence, to which he has admitted, resulting in a tragic and unnecessary loss," Sherman said.
Hamptlon's mother, Doris, told KABC-TV Channel 7 after the sentencing that she "can breathe a little better." But other relatives said they thought the sentence was too light.
Steir admitted making a mistake but said he would have gotten Hamptlon emergency medical attention if he had known the extent of the damage.
His lawyers suffered a series of losses in pretrial hearings, particularly when a judge ruled that jurors could hear about injuries Steir allegedly caused in performing two previous abortions and a Caesarean-section birth.
His attorneys also argued unsuccessfully that he was the target of selective prosecution because he performed abortions.
Prosecutors maintained that the murder charge was based on Steir's negligence and had nothing to do with politics or abortion.