EL CENTRO — Last week, the El Centro city chambers and outside courtyard were filled again with hundreds of pro-lifers. However, Mayor Efrain Silva told the disappointed room that due to a technical error, the motion to vote on hiring outside counsel was postponed to Monday. The elected council will vote on whether to hire outside council to advise them if they have legal authority over a hospital board they created, that governs a hospital the city finances. Silva said the vote could not be taken as they had promised.
Already on the agenda was a presentation by the newly formed Imperial Valley Coalition for Life that in short time garnered names from businesses, churches, individuals, and organizations from throughout the Valley supporting life and opposing the taking of innocent life through abortions, according to their brochure.
Pastor Chris Nunn of Christ Community Church led the presentation, first introducing Rev. Fr. Edward Horning of St. Mary Catholic Church, a leader in the life movement. In El Centro, the Hispanic population exceeds 81 percent. The church-affiliated population of the Imperial Valley is 83 percent Catholic. The people of El Centro identify almost entirely as pro-life, according to Marty Ellett, who is spearheading efforts to oppose Planned Parenthood in El Centro.
The non-denominational organization realizes most of the abortions will come from the Hispanic community, plus what they consider to be Planned Parenthoods target clientele, the citizens of Mexicali, where that country has outlawed abortion.
When Pastor Nunn spoke again, he appealed to the city trustees’ higher natures, asking them to be the leaders the people want, to stop the unnecessary killing of babies, to reverse the decision made by the hospital board. The county and the city have spoken through pro-life ballots in the past and by the numbers that consistently and continually turn out at the hospital and city hall board meetings to protest Planned Parenthood’s abortion clinic, said Nunn.
Part of the presentation included Debi Ellett of the Real Hope Center. She began telling the board that her message would make them very happy. Ellett then informed the elected officials that the pro-life organizations, especially her center, have been on the front lines for the past 20 years.
Ellett explained the work and education the Hope Center offers the pregnant girls, from diapers, to transportation, to better choices. Her slide presentation showed foster families that included young girls and their babies, taking them in and providing a loving family and caring for the woman and her baby.
At one point the audience was polled on who had taken in a child or a teen with a child, in order to provide stability and a loving family, more than half the people present raised their hands.
The presentation showed the board, that pro-life is not just anti- abortion as they had been represented by others, but that they already had a track record of stepping in to help troubled mothers with unwanted pregnancies, or pregnancies where the mother didn’t feel she could support a child. Their working presence in the community had been effective, even if unknown to the majority of the board.
Each speaker drove the point that an abortion clinic was not wanted in the Valley, nor needed as a solution to unwanted pregnancies.
Balancing their message of decades of pro-life work in the community was Patrick Harris who brought legal charges against the actions of the two boards in breaking both the California Brown Act and the California Records Act.
Harris, Seeley County Water District board president, used his office as credentials on knowing both of those public watchdog laws that protect the people’s right to know how their elected officials vote, while representing their constituencies. He began by quoting the highest law of the land, the constitution, and then moved to California law.
“Life for the unborn is an unalienable right given by the All Mighty. So, we seek tonight to address the sure and certain grievances of the unborn. To speak for those who cannot speak for themselves. To restore unto them the right to life they are being alienated from.”
“In 1953, to protect the citizens of California from abusive, oppressive and secretive local governments, the legislature instituted the Ralph M. Brown Act. This enacted very strict codes of transparency and accountability upon County Board of Supervisors, City Councils, Special Districts; and Substitutionary Boards, like the Board of Trustees of the El Centro Regional Medical Center.”
“Furthermore the legislature, in its wisdom, enacted the California Records Act. It ensures easy public access to public documents, such as, contract, emails, memos, letters to and from public agencies and the like. These documents are to be open and accessible to anyone in the public who requests them. “
Harris alleged that the ECRMC was suppressing documents illegally in violation of the California Records Act. He said many of the documents requested were denied without proper legal authority.
These were the charges. Harris read, “The Brown act forbids voting on a policy decision in a closed session under the headline of “potential litigation”. This kind of closed session only authorizes legal advice from counsel and cannot be used to institute an ad hoc policy. This is exactly what the (ECRMC) Board of Trustees did on February 24.”
“The Board did not properly declare its intent to vote on a policy issue on the agenda, in open session, with 72 hours advance notice at this regular meeting; or with 24 hours advance notice for a special meeting. This also constituted a violation of the Brown Act. “
“If the Board of Trustees maintain their claim that they did not vote on the issue on February 24, but only polled the Trustees, then they are in violation of the Brown Act for conducting an illegal “serial meeting”. All deliberation for any policy issue must be conducted in open session for public review.“
“If anyone not authorized by the law was invited to stay in the closed session then the Board may have violated the law by having a “Semi-Closed Session”
“If the transfer agreement (with Planned Parenthood) is considered a contract. The law requires all contacts (except real estate) must be debated and ratified in open session because they are not exempt in the Brown Act.”
Harris ended by stating since laws had been broken, all actions in closed session on February 24, 2015, together with the signing of the Planned Parenthood transfer agreement be declared null and void and all deliberation over this contract be deliberated in open session as required by the Ralph M. Brown Act.
Three stood to support the abortion clinic. The first gentleman from Salton City asked for Alex Cardenas to recuse himself from any further votes concerning Planned Parenthood because of his religious convictions. The gray-haired, pony-tailed man declared the country a secular nation, founded on secular causes with no room for religious convictions.
The two ladies addressed the board during comments.
The first lady for abortions spoke concerning the transfers, explaining that after an abortion goes wrong and emergency, qualified medical care is needed, the transfer agreement takes the woman to the hospital.
“These people want to shut the transfers down, when the woman is in medical duress. She has already killed her baby, and their attitude is, ‘To hell with her’. I have a problem with this.”
“There are people who didn’t get abortions and they are mutilated, left with stillborns. Or they are both dead, the mother and the baby,” said the last lady who spoke supporting the clinic. “Not every woman regrets abortions. You cannot speak for every woman across the universe.”
During the same comment period, many men and women supporting the pro-life came to the podium asking the council to be leaders for the community and represent the people’s wishes.