Planned Parenthood bullied Calif. city into abortion agreement

ADF letters say hospital trustees violated state meeting law with private vote after abortion giant reportedly threatened to sue
Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Attorney sound bites:  Michael J. Norton  |  Natalie Decker

EL CENTRO, Calif. – Planned Parenthood reportedly threatened to sue El Centro Regional Medical Center trustees in their personal capacity and falsely claimed the city-run hospital could lose public funding if it refused to sign an agreement that paves the way for Planned Parenthood to begin performing abortions in the city. El Centro is the seat of Imperial County, which borders Mexico.

The threat apparently led the hospital’s board of trustees to break several provisions of California’s open meetings law in a rush to make a decision on the agreement, according to a letter Alliance Defending Freedom sent Monday to the medical center on behalf of Imperial Valley Coalition for Life. The letter asks the board of trustees to take action to rectify their violations of state law.

“Planned Parenthood cares more about its abortion profits than it does about the people of El Centro, the majority of whom seem clearly to not want Planned Parenthood here,” said ADF Senior Counsel Michael J. Norton. “Planned Parenthood threatened the members of the board with a lawsuit and misled them into thinking they could lose Medicare and Medicaid funding as a result. That is nearly impossible in light of the abundance of existing abortion facilities in the area. Planned Parenthood simply used its typical bully tactics to get what it wanted.”

After approximately 2,000 people showed up at a Feb. 24 public meeting to oppose the agreement and receiving a letter from ADF on Feb. 23 that outlined the problems with approving it, the trustees went into private session and reportedly deadlocked in a 3-3 vote. Planned Parenthood allegedly threatened litigation if the board didn’t pass the “transfer agreement,” which would allow the abortion giant to send women suffering from botched abortions to El Centro Regional Medical Center for care. Without the agreement or a similar arrangement, Planned Parenthood cannot engage in abortions in El Centro. In addition, as the Feb. 23 ADF letter explained, the agreement is not in the city’s best interest because it exposes the city to “enormous liability potential.”

While the tie vote due to the chairperson’s decision to abstain from voting should have resulted in rejection of the agreement, the vote somehow led to leaving the decision with medical center management officials, who signed the agreement. The ADF letter sent Monday outlines numerous other problems with how the board conducted its vote and closed-door meeting, including that state law does not allow the board to conduct or debate such a vote in private (regardless of whether the vote was final), that the board did not properly announce the closed-door meeting, and that the board allowed unauthorized persons into the meeting.

A March 2 letter from ADF and the coalition requested related documents, which must be disclosed according to California’s open records law. A March 12 letter from the city clerk, which ADF received Tuesday, denied the records request and refused to provide any information other than a copy of the signed transfer agreement.

“The chief duty of public officials is to the public, not Planned Parenthood,” said ADF Legal Counsel Natalie Decker. “We regret that Planned Parenthood placed the board into a position it should never have been placed into, but the board has a public duty to abide by state law, and it still has the opportunity to rectify that.”

Chris Nunn, a leader of the Imperial Valley Coalition for Life, is scheduled to speak at a public El Centro City Council meeting Tuesday regarding the matter. The meeting will begin at 6 p.m. PDT at El Centro City Hall.

Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith.

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