ABORTION: Controversial Case Draws to a Close
Abortion provider Dr. Bruce Steir this week pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter for what prosecutors called "gross negligence" and lack of "due caution" in his care of a 27-year- old patient who bled to death due to a perforated uterus. The plea agreement in the 1996 death allows Steir to avoid a murder trial and "ends a contentious, high-profile case with symbolic significance to both sides in the debate over abortion rights," the Los Angeles Times reports (Marquis, Los Angeles Times, 4/6). The case also raised "grave concerns" among doctors about criminalizing medical mistakes, according to California Medical Association Legal Counsel Susan Penney, who argued that the case "should never have been brought criminally, and certainly not as a second-degree murder case." Defense attorney Doron Weinberg argued that Steir was prosecuted because of his abortion-rights commitment, but the Riverside County district attorney's office countered that the case "had nothing to do with abortion politics." However, the Los Angeles Times reports that the abortion debate "played some role" in the decision to settle. Weinberg maintained that Steir was facing a jury selected from a largely antiabortion community that would weigh Steir's actions "in the context of the most emotionally laden political issue of our era." And Deputy Distrist Attorney Kennis Clark said, "This case is not about abortion. But when you have such a hot-button issue, you always run the risk of not being able to persuade 12 minds to either position." Steir will likely serve less than a year and face up to five years of probation (Los Angeles Times, 4/6).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.