“Jailhouse Journal” of an Abortion Provider

What motivates
an abortion provider? What brings an individual to this important –
and regretfully still controversial – practice of medicine? The answers
are as varied as the brave doctors who do the work of helping women.
One such doctor has shared his story in the 2008 book "Jailhouse Journal
of an OB/GYN
." We know from the title that this book will not have
a happy ending.

Dr. Bruce
Steir’s memoir starts out an interesting and easy read, as he describes his
youth in Miami Beach, his sister’s unwanted pregnancy in 1943, his
adventures as a young doctor learning his craft, his years in the military,
and the great satisfaction he derives from his work. As he shares his
anecdotes, he also discusses racism, sexism, anti-Semitism, the impact of World
War II, and the politics of women’s health. For much of his
early career, abortion was illegal in the U.S. Dr. Steir’s compassion,
political beliefs, and deep respect for women shine through when he
describes his feelings about the lack of justice for women, the punitive
adoption system, and how unsafe abortion humiliates, harms, and often
kills women. As a medical student, when faced with a neighbor’s deteriorating
medical condition after she has had an unsafe abortion, Dr. Steir (who
gets her medical care on time) writes:

The act of abortion is to
remove an unplanned and unwanted pregnancy. The abortion is to erase
the mistake they [the couple] have made together and get on with their
lives. That is why there will always be abortion, be it legal or illegal,
in this imperfect world that we breed in.

Dr. Steir
might never have written this memoir if not for the tragic death of
a young woman whose abortion he performed in 1996. The death of a woman from a legal abortion is extremely
rare in the United States and, indeed, as to be expected, Steir
was devastated. The witch-hunt that ensued only compounded this tragedy. Steir was charged with homicide, transforming
a civil suit of malpractice (in and of itself debatable) into a criminal case with the charge of murder (marked by improper testimony and even more questionable). The vicious anti-abortion network in California was looking for a scapegoat,
and thanks to their undue power and oppressive collaboration with the medical
board of California and the district attorney’s office in Riverside
County, Steir became a convicted felon. He was incarcerated and
forced to give up his medical license, thus ending his 40-year medical

Over these four decades of delivering babies and performing
abortions, Dr. Steir touched, and saved, many lives. Indeed, I worked
with him for a few years in Seattle, Washington, and it would be difficult
to find a more skilled and compassionate physician. Dr. Steir performed
40,000 legal abortions throughout the years, helped countless women
have babies and abortions, and his message is more important than ever.
As he writes, "With the possible demise of Roe vs. Wade, my memoir
will be timely and of great interest for anyone concerned about the
abortion issue."

With the election of pro-choice Barack Obama to the presidency, is Roe vs. Wade safe for now? Perhaps, but
true access to safe abortion care for young women, poor women, and rural
women remains a crisis. In addition, destigmatizing abortion in our
society continues to elude us, even after 35 years of legal abortion.
Dr. Steir’s journal reminds us how critical it is to never back down
and to keep working and speaking out for women’s health and dignity
everywhere. The work for reproductive justice is never over and this
personal narrative is an excellent contribution to the ongoing discussion
of abortion provision and the importance of safe abortion care and compassionate
providers. Thank you, Dr. Steir. 

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  • invalid-0

    What’s wrong with ADOPTION??? There are 2 MILLION financially stable, married, childless couples that are on a 12-17 year WAITING LIST for a newborn! Why not ADOPT??? Must the baby die? Must the mother kill their baby? It is the BABIES BODY, not HERS to kill Abortion will always have a negative stigma. ALWAYS. Abortionists are considered the bottom-feeders of the medical profession. No matter how you march and cheer in your Womb War Wrath WarPath of Hags, it will ALWAYS be Vile. Why? Because it is a human! The debate is long over! One day the human is alive, the next day it is surgically snuffed. No one respects that. No one.

    If you put an ounce of bounce in ADOPTION rather than the secret, deceitful action of promoting-encouraging Snuff-Surgery we would be a kinder and much more healthy society and world.

    “Honor Killing” your own children is for low vibrational subhuman dolts with some really nasty Karma.

    • otaku1960

      but it’s an alternative to the mother parenting the baby, not abortion. Another problem with this is there are THOUSANDS of children waiting for these 2 million financially stable married childless couples to adopt them.. But these children have aged out of the "adorable newborn" stage and aren’t desired by these 2 million financially stable married childressl couples. Last but not least, the decision to give up an unwanted child for adoption is just as hard as deciding to end the pregnancy early. Adopttion is nice, but it’s not a "magic bullet". 


      <p> <em>Your grievance shall be avenged. </p></em>

    • invalid-0

      >>There are 2 MILLION financially stable, married, childless couples that are on a 12-17 year WAITING LIST for a newborn!<< Well that’s just too darn bad for them. Fertile women are under no obligation to become breeders for these couples. Let them adopt one of the approx 200,000 children that are alredy here who need families. Maybe the reason these couples can’t conceive is that their god knew they would be lousy parents.

    • invalid-0

      I love the way you frame women as uterii for hire. You know, pumping out PRODUCT for the market! Humans as commodities for sale to the most middle-class bidder! White newborns bring premium dollar, pump out MOAR, teen sluts!

      You’re basically advising baby-farming so some jumped-up schmucks can have a lily-white newborn instead of adopting one of the many, many thousands of CHILDREN *already* available for adoption in the USA. Oh, but those kids aren’t good enough for the saintly parent-wannabes, are they? NEWBORNS ONLY. Because we can only care about a newborn. The rest of those kids are kinda shop-soiled, right? Worthless. They might have disabilities! They might have issues! They might be *gulp* … BLACK or unpleasantly ETHNIC or some other thing that makes them unsaleable on the adoption market.

    • angryreptilekeeper

      How about all those rich, child-wanting couples adopt one of the millions of other unwanted children who are festering away within the system?


      Oh, wait! They’re not healthy white infants. How silly of me. I think you’re right. We need to force women to give birth against their will so that rich childless couples can adopt them!</sarcasm>


      And as for it being the baby’s body?  Remind me again whose body the fetus is occupying? Whose body created the fetus? Whose nutrients it is stealing? Who is the fetus physically attached to? Who actually has to suffer (mentally and otherwise) through an unwanted pregnancy?


      A woman shouldn’t be forced to bear a child she doesn’t want any more than she should be forced to live with a parasite in her body.

      • invalid-0

        God created the baby’s body. DNA is a program written by the Creator with intricate instructions to grow a child.

        As for the parasite claim, a parasite is an organism that inhibits its host’s evolutionary fitness (defined as leaving offspring that produce offspring of their own). Thus, one’s offspring, by definition, is not and cannot be a parasite.

  • http://everysaturdaymorning.wordpress.com/ invalid-0

    Perhaps the writer should begin by reading The Lie We Love by E.J. Graft, posted 1/08/09 on this blog. An excellent analysis of the current adoption market. Then the reader should move on to reading Wake Up Little Susie:Single Pregnancy and Race before Roe v. Wade, as well as anything else Dr.Ricki Sollinger has ever written. And then The Girls Who Went Away:The Hidden History of Women Who Surrendered Children For Adoption, by Ann Fessler. and Finally should consider the thousands of children in the U.S. that will spend more of there lives in foster care and state institutions than will get adopted. Perhaps the writer should stop spewing asinine assertions, and begin by reading a few books.

  • invalid-0

    The author of the post “Why (not adoption)?” demonstrates why I believe that a lot of people in the anti-choice movement are more motivated by hatred of women than respect for life.

    People who are motivated by and practice honest and consistent morality express this type of vitriol or refer to others as “Womb War Wrath WarPath of Hags” and “low vibrational subhuman dolts.”

    The fundamental issue about abortion that does not get discussed in the pro- anti-abortion context is about whether the government should (at the instigation of people who think women are “low vibrational subhumans”) be involved in determining whether and under what circumstances an abortion can be performed. And, of course, if government can outlaw abortions, it can also compel them.

    The distressing thing is that people who have this kind of hatred in their hearts want to be able to tell others how to live their lives.

  • invalid-0

    When I got my abortion, it was a choice over my life or a could be potential life of the embryo. To answer your question anonymous, some women are told if you carry this pregnancy to term you will die. What would you have them do just die? What about their lives are they worth nothing to you? For these women and many others that I haven’t them time to explain but I am sure if you read this blog enough will see adoption isn’t a choice. Oh I do highly recommend you read The Lie We Love on this website. But to answer your question adoption isn’t always the answer.

    • invalid-0

      MOSt of the woman that are told “You will die if you continue with your pregnancy!” are women who were WARNED NEVER TO GET PG! They went ahead and did it anyway — because there are simply NO newborns to adopt! Adopting a newborn is a CHoiCE…. no less or more a personal decision than to adopt the mentally handicapped or difficult child. Foster care is brisk business because DRUG addicted parents. CRIMINAL parents. Get caught with a little pot–say bye bye kids. Have a mess house, say bye-bye. Face it! The system, our death culture, our society is DESIGNing the failure of FAMILY! Can’t you see that? No Planned Parenthood nurse will tell you there are 5-7 strains of genital herpes that will blind or worse your newborn. The virus is spread with or without condoms. NO PP nurse will teach or share the “Know Thy Spinnbarkeit” information. Men and Women are clueless to the biological events that cause pregnancy. …and all you Womb War Hags want is fetal blood for research and depopulation.

      • invalid-0

        MOSt of the woman that are told “You will die if you continue with your pregnancy!” are women who were WARNED NEVER TO GET PG! They went ahead and did it anyway.

        So what? Does that mean they deserve to die? You’re a truly scary person if you think that.

      • invalid-0

        that whole thing about genital herpes potentially blinding your newborn? it’s a fairly well known fact. at least, well enough known that it’s made an appearance or two in the gossip rags (remember when angelina jolie was about to give birth to shiloh? at least 2 or 3 different super market checkout line tabloids were screaming about how she had to have a C-section because of herpes).

        also, what do STDs have to do with adoption vs. abortion anyway?

    • invalid-0

      I remember reading that. However, the way you’re viewing it is off. It’s referring to international/intercultural adoptions and how the focus has shifted from the benefit of the child to catering to the demands of potential adoptive families. There’s big money made now in international adoptions. Another concern is the taking of children from families that should be aided to raise their own children instead of seeing international adoption as the only way for the child to survive. Most children are taken from poor/unstable countries.

      Domestic adoption doesn’t quite have the same problems as international, it has it’s own fair share of problems. But I’d still say domestic adoption is do-able. The child has a chance to live, have a family, make friends, get married, and maybe become the a famous author, artist, biologist…a great leader for a city, state or country. You just never know.

  • invalid-0

    I don’t appreciate being called a hag, second if you can’t argue without name calling your are proving number one that you don’t know how to debate and number two that your argument doesn’t have much to stand on. Second off, how do you know how I got pregnant number one I could of been one of the countless women in the country that was raped. You don’t know. Third off alot of conditions don’t come up till you are pregnant think of gestational diabetes and the like of different heart conditions. Fourth I got my dx from my private doctor not a PP doctor and I was previously healthy young woman, pregnancy just happened to bring up a health condition that was lurking around. I am not sorry for the choices I made and no amount of name calling or trying to shame me or your “truth” will make me feel different.

  • invalid-0

    Statics show abortion has caused womb perforations, infection scarred tubes, cervix weakening and issues of substance abuse resulting in broken relationships. STD’s are also a big culprit to infertility.
    No one is saying other women are obligated to be “breeders” BUT we could deduct their ARE 2 million LOVING PARENTS WHO WANT YOUR UNWANTED-UNLOVED newborn baby. YOU DO NOT HAVE TO KILL IT! You can “kill” it for yourself by giving it up and letting it go … “kill” the relationship, not the baby. You will make EVERYONE happier! The adoptive parents (who pay $30,000 to lawyers to adopt your baby) they pay your pg costs, etc.
    200,000 orphans? Foster Care doesn’t allow adoption in all situations. You would think lawyers, judges and government would screen carefully that system. You think they could get the parents straightened out. You think they would allow the parent-child a relationship. When the system turns the family and child into deviants and life management nightmares it becomes clear there is deep corruption.
    1,500 black babies are aborted EVERY DAY in the USA. I know the waiting list for newborns is majority of no preference as to race or gender.
    Why didn’t your mom abort you? If she had it do over again, would she abort you? Was the reason she never aborted you was because it was not legal? If it had been legal, would she have aborted you?
    Many answer that “Well, I wouldn’t have “known” so what do I care? I wouldn’t even know I was aborted.” Does a man murdered while sleeping soundly in his bed not “care” because he didn’t even “know” he was murdered? Does a women rendered unconscious with a date rape drug not care she was raped because she “didn’t know” or feel or think while she was raped by 8 guys? Is it a crime to kill a pregnant woman’s baby without her knowing it? The number one cause of death to pregnant women is HOMICIDE. Studies show that MILLIONS more would adopt if it weren’t such a heavy expense ($30,000 just to start!) and such a long heart wrenching process. (Ever been involved in a lawsuit? Lawyers know how to drag it on forever all the while $$ $$$$ $$$$$$). I say find a nice couple on your own and do the adoption yourselves. No couple is perfect. No baby is perfect. The alternative, killing your baby, is forever a life lived, and ended by it’s mother in murder, honor killing, snuff surgery, WHATEVER you want to call it.

    • invalid-0

      “Statics show abortion has caused womb perforations, infection scarred tubes, cervix weakening and issues of substance abuse resulting in broken relationships. ”

      well, childbirth (far more often, i might add) can result in genital dysfunctions, permanent incontinence, depression, scars and infection (both C-sections and vaginal births), not to mention a much higher chance of death than with abortion. so it’s certainly worse for more women to force them to have babies to be put up for adoption than it is when women can choose to put themselves through these risks or not.

  • invalid-0

    and your having a bird over adoption of newborns. Got It.

  • invalid-0

    The young woman who died was Sharon Hamptlon, 27 and the mother of a three year old boy. She was already twenty weeks into her pregnancy at the time of the abortion. According to Nancy Myles, the assisting nurse. during the abortion he said to her “I think I pulled bowel” meaning he had perforated her uterus and pulled some bowel through the tear. Even then he did not seek any help for her. Instead he left for a flight to San Francisco. Ten minutes after Steir left the clinic “A Lady’s Choice Women’s Medical Center” Sharon was sent home in her mother’s car. Before they reached the house she was dead. It’s also worth noting that in November 1995 prosecuters filed a formal complaint against him alleging malpractice in six previous abortions. Three of these resulted in hysterectomies. All this is information worth knowing to anyone interested in the circumstances regarding Sharon Hamptlon’s death.

  • brady-swenson

    Several comments were deleted from this thread because some of those commenting cannot do so without becoming profane, insulting, threatening or uncivil in some other way, therefor violating our commenting policy:


    We understand that the issues discussed on this website are divisive. Unlike many forums that concern these issues we embrace and encourage a civil discourse about them. We will continue to allow open commenting that is of a civil nature and that seeks to engage the debate, but we will delete without further explanation comments that threaten, demean, or decrease the civility of discussion.

  • invalid-0

    Thanks for taking down those comments which distracted from an open, honest and constructive discussion of this topic.

  • invalid-0

    Oh, PUHLEESE!!! Where the heck are you getting your “facts”?
    Never mind, I know. From some right to life website. The fetus freaks don’t care about the truth.
    The problem with the wanna be mommies and daddies is that these kids have disabilities, emotional problems, they are sibling groups, they are older.
    IOW, they aren’t pretty, picture perfect little babies that the couples can pass off as their own.
    If a couple wants a baby so badly, let ’em pay a surrogate for her time, effort and risks.
    No woman is obligated to provide a baby for anyone else.

  • invalid-0

    I don’t know….I find it hard to really see compassion or an ability to trust a dr. that does both deliveries and abortions. Both helping in delivering a life and killing a life….Does he really value life? It’s obvious that he doesn’t view the baby in womb as human by the way he wrote his entry shown above. The baby’s referred to only as a (unplanned/unwanted) pregnancy and a mistake. There’s over 90% of abortions being done because the baby is of inconvenience, and around 5%, I believe, are done because of rape and incest. This leads me to think that abortion is too readily used as a back-up contraceptive. And as an adoptee, I’d rather be adopted than aborted…I’m pretty sure if you ask anyone alive which they would rather be, aborted or adopted they’d say adopted. Adopted means being alive! Gienna Jesson and and Sarah Smith are a couple of very few abortion survivors. Jesson is adopted. Both Jesson and Sarah have handicaps because of the botched abortion attempts. Sarah’s twin brother didn’t survive. They are two people who are so glad to be alive! Even though they have handicaps too! I find that amazing. Bottom line is doctors are suppose to be fighting for saving lives, not taking them.

  • angryreptilekeeper

    Just out of curiosity, how many of the "champions for life" here eat?


    Sanctity of and respect for life, indeed.


    But it’s nice to have the right to pick and choose what life is sacred and worthy of respect, isn’t it?


    Isn’t it ironic, dontcha’ think?

    • invalid-0

      Having just had my OWN physician decline to perform my abortion, because it was “elective” rather then for “medical reasons” I am more than a little involved in this issue.

      This thread is a great example of how absolutes serve only to fan the flames of the abortion wars. Abortion is a complicated complex ethical, moral, and sometimes religious (depending on the woman) situation with unique circumstances for each woman. You may believe life begins at conception. Don’t have an abortion. However so long as we continue to debate when life begins, or the so called psychological or medical ramifications of abortion (so following some of the logic on this thread, are the infertile women on the adoption waiting list infertile because they had abortions, in which case qua they are no fit to be mothers anyway), we will get no where.

      1 out of 3 women in America has an abortion by the age of 45. It is the REALITY of the situation. By listening to the women themselves, and perhaps the newer saner voices on the anti-abortion side who have chosen the laudable goal of seeking to reduce the number of abortion rather than overturning the legality of the procedure, we may find a way out of this long impasse.

      I’ve blogged my abortion experience at http://www.1outof3.blogspot.com. Fair warning, crazies can skip posting as comments are automatically deleted based on key words. This blog is for people seeking greater insight not a forum for their hatred. Start your own blog for that.

  • therealistmom

    parasite par·a·site (pār’ə-sīt’)


    1. An organism that grows, feeds, and is sheltered on or in a different
      organism while contributing nothing to the survival of its host.
    2. In conjoined twins, the usually incomplete twin that derives its support from the more nearly normal fetus.
  • harry834

    Shouldn’t the woman get to decide if this consuming thing grows inside of her? Shouldn’t ANY human being be allowed to decide what grows in them?


    I’m assuming women are human beings with human rights. The Constitution and UN Declaration of Human Rights do say that governments must protect the lives and freedoms of their citizens. NOWHERE is this stated to mean that governments should mandate pregnancy and outlaw/criminalize doctor patient relationships. The truth is that abortion is as safe as any medical procedure can be for the patient: the woman. The fetus is not the patient, and if we ever find a way to magically transport fetuses from unwilling women to willing (and screaming) anti-choicers, I think they should have their bellies ready to take the child even if they can’t afford it. This is the point of the anti-choicer’s indifference to personal circumstances.

  • http://www.idiaper.com invalid-0

    I see positives and negatives to both sides of the issue.

    Against abortion side: I believe that the baby has a soul at conception. I’m not really a Christian, but I do believe this. Thus, we are killing a soul when we abort at 6 weeks or whatever.

    Pro abortion: How can the state or anyone else tell a woman what to do with her body in a free country? Isn’t it the woman’s right to do what she wants? As long as the child isn’t far along, how can someone she doesn’t know tell her that she has to adopt?

    I really don’t know which side to take, as I think both have a good argument.

  • invalid-0

    The thing I find amazing about this is that not one person has aknowledged the responsibility the woman bears for her pregnancy.
    Setting aside cases of rape or where the womans life is put at risk by the continuation of her pregnancy – I’m not talking about that minority, I’m talking about the majority of women who consent to sex, women who have been educated to the point where they realize that of course pregnancy is a natural effect of having sex.
    These women know what they’re getting into, know that by choosing to have sex they may get pregnant.
    They are responsible for the creation of this new life, but instead of taking responsibility for that, for the child that depends on them for it’s life, they choose to end the baby’s life for their own convenience.

    In my opinion, that is the most selfish act imaginable.

  • invalid-0

    In my opinion, that is the most selfish act imaginable.

    Who are you to call women making a difficult decision like this “selfish?” Do you know these women? Do you know what their responsibilities are? No? Why are you more qualified to decide what’s right for these women than the women in question themselves?

    Do you think the mother of three who uses birth control and accidentally gets pregnant is “selfish” for terminating a pregnancy that will complicate the care of her existing children?

    Do you think it is “selfish” for a woman to decide that she’s not yet ready to become a (good) mother, because of her finances and living situation?

    Maybe they are being “selfish”—in the sense that they are doing what’s right for them, and not taking orders from you or other people who don’t know them or their responsibilities at all.

    If you one day find yourself with an unwanted pregnancy, I’m sure you would want to make your own decision about what to do about it, and not simply kowtow to a peanut gallery of commentators who see you not as a complex, three-dimensional person, but as an example on which to make a point.

    If I were you, I’d be a hell of a lot less gung-ho about telling others who have to make difficult life decisions what the “correct” answer is.