The Implausible Bill Horn



By Kit-Bacon Gressitt

“What the hell is that?” I asked indelicately.

I slowed the car, and my daughter and I rolled past a plump gal, in cheerful hospital scrubs, folding up a hand-lettered sandwich board that read, “Do you think you’re pregnant? Free ultrasound.” She stood on the side of the road, under the awning of an RV that, according to its signage, hosted a mobile ultrasound unit.

“OK, that’s weird,” said my wonderfully astute Katie.

Indeed, Fallbrook is weird, in ways good and bad. Having had a recent adventure in ultrasound land, however, we were temporarily inclined to suspect more of the bad.

Just a week or so before, beset with a common medical problem, we had dutifully reported to the Fallbrook ob-gyn recommended by Katie’s general practitioner. That the specialist was male was nearly inevitable in our town; that he proceeded to lecture us in the exam room was astounding.

“Now, if you’re pregnant,” he began, “you need to know that I don’t perform abortions and Fallbrook Hospital doesn’t allow them, and there are long-term complications associated with abortion. I’ve—.”

“She’s not pregnant,” I interrupted, “that’s not why we’re here, and you need to know that we are 180 degrees from you on the abortion issue. Ours is not the right family for your message.”

And wouldn’t you know it, he persisted!

“As a physician, I have a responsibility to explain the risks of the procedure, including the psychological risks. I’ve had women in here break down in tears years later when asked how many pregnancies they’ve—.”

I wanted to tell him to keep his focus on crotches and leave the psychology to those qualified in that specialty, but I opted for, “Perhaps I wasn’t clear: We’re not interested in discussing abortion with you, Katie’s not pregnant, and we are quite well informed about the issue. For example, the long-term effects of abortion are wildly misrepresented by anti-abortion groups, and if you actually need to address an unwanted pregnancy with a patient, you should provide accurate, unbiased information.”

Katie, sitting forlornly on the exam table, let loose a groan — one of disgust, not pain. I shut up. The doctor stomped out. And for this, we'd had the costly ultrasound.

Yeah, so, the hand-lettered sign on the side of the road touting free ultrasounds smacked of questionable intent to us. I googled it.

Lo and behold, the mobile ultrasound unit was a gift from the San Diego County taxpayers to the Vista Pregnancy Resource Center. Funny, I don’t recall being asked to sign the card. Indeed, I’m sure I wasn’t, because I wouldn’t have given tax dollars to an organization that indoctrinates its clients.

But County Supervisor Bill Horn would. He gave $50,000 of discretionary tax dollars to the Vista Center for the mobile ultrasound. And now the center makes the RV available to the Fallbrook Pregnancy Resource Center twice a month.

Ah, there was our explanation. But it still felt weird.

Perhaps it would have been wiser if Horn and the religious organization had relied on private contributors, rather than taxpayers, to fund their religious agendas. In fact, it kind of seemed as though that might be a little bit more legal, given our separation of church and state, so I googled a little bit more.

Turns out that Horn also gave 10,000 in taxpayer dollars to the Fallbrook Pregnancy Resource Center to help fund its 2009 fund raiser.

How did he get around the law like that?
Bill Horn's quid pro quo for funding Life Perspectives
Well, in a recent San Diego CityBeat article about Life Perspectives (another religious recipient of Horn’s generous tossing of tax dollars), John Sansone from the County Counsel's office explained it all. In the last three years, Life Perspectives has received $80,000 in grants from Horn for the group’s annual fund raiser “Life Walk.” Because the grants were for the events, not for the religious anti-abortion curriculum materials that Life Perspectives sells, Sansone said the grants “may fall into a legal gray area.”

“In his ass,” said my wonderfully astute and equally indelicate Katie. And she has a point. Taxpayer dollars cannot be used to promote religious doctrine, so just how stupid do we have to be to buy the line that Bill Horn can, instead, fund fund-raisers that fund religious doctrine?

Implausibly stupid. Or, put another way, as stupid as Bill Horn thinks we are. This is the same Candidate Horn who was overheard in 1995 saying it didn’t matter what he promised on the campaign trail, because the voters wouldn’t remember once he was in office.

Oops.

Apparently it also doesn’t matter that Horn gave 34,000 in taxpayer dollars to a Pregnancy Resource Center (the County website didn't indicate which one) for computers and a photocopier. Now, do you suppose it copies in gray or color?

And in 2009, Horn gave 35,000 in taxpayer dollars to a Pregnancy Resource Center for moving expenses. Maybe the moving van was gray?

And in 2004, Horn earmarked a $100,000 matching grant for a Pregnancy Resource Center to acquire a “maternity home.” Maybe they were planning to paint the home gray?

And there was the $50,000 for the RV, which was, frankly, more earth tones than gray.

And those examples are just what was available with a quick search of the County website and local news reports.*

Now, to cut Horn some slack, it is possible that the religious groups he has funded with taxpayer dollars are not actually promoting religion. This thought sent me back to Google, which produced the following reality checks:

From the Fallbrook Pregnancy Resource Center:

Volunteer staff is the heartbeat of this ministry. … Qualifications: a love relationship with Jesus Christ.

What you can do as a volunteer:

Pray. Serve as a volunteer counselor, receptionist, or office volunteer. Host a baby shower at your church. Speak at your church or civic group about the sanctity of life and the work of Fallbrook Pregnancy Resource Center. Serve as a church liaison for our baby bottle fundraiser or walk for life. Organize the Sanctity of Life Sunday activities in your church. Ask your pastor to preach on the sanctity of life and other related topics. …

Interestingly, the Fallbrook Center also promotes renewed virginity for those who repent being sexually active outside of marriage and ask God to make them whole in their hearts — and down there, I suppose.

I really hope none of my tax dollars is being used to teach that nifty bit of doctrine.

Another interesting note is that the Fallbrook Center claims they “recieve[sic] no local, state or government funding. We are completely dependent on our community to supply our annual operating needs.”

That would be another “oops” I guess.

Life Perspectives’ curriculum website provides an equally enlightening reality check. This excerpt is from the Teachers Notes for a teen pregnancy module:

[I]t’s clear that even students who are involved in churches continue to be sexually active and may experience unplanned pregnancies. In 2003, research at Northern Kentucky University showed that 61 percent of students who signed sexual-abstinence commitment cards broke their pledges. Three surveys of single Christian adults in the 1990s determined that only one-third were virgins. Studies also show that there is little difference in the abortion rate between women who go to church and women who do not. We need to work together to find ways to be more effective in helping our students make difficult choices that are in line with God’s direction for their lives.

OK, let’s all be honest: Bill Horn is giving tax dollars to religious organizations that — along with any services they might provide — are promoting religious doctrine. If anyone dares deny this, I suggest we all get down on our knees and pray that God might guide him or her to renewed honesty.

Of course, we can also vote for Bill Horn’s opponent in November, Steve Gronke.

In the meantime, Katie and I are casting our votes against doctors who indoctrinate women in the exam room — by finding a new ob-gyn.

Love, K-B

* In a separate vein, there were a couple other grants worth noting: Horn gave $5,000 to the Santa Margarita Gun Club in 2009 for “ammunition, food, and travel costs including accommodations for the Gun Club's trip to a national tournament in Camp Petty, Ohio”; and Horn gave $15,000 to the Fairbanks Ranch Association’s teen scholarships for drivers ed. Yep, Fairbanks Ranch (a "gated community of exclusive estates") — the ritzy part of Rancho Santa Fe. Wouldn’t want all those Bimmers and Jags dinged in the school parking lot.

UPDATE: Hmm, according to the Association's website, "Fairbanks Ranch is the distinctive home for select families." Families that cannot afford to pay for their kids' drivers ed?

Crossposted at The Progressive Post.

©2010 Kit-Bacon Gressitt

Note: ICU RV photo from the ICU website; Life Perspectives' Life Walk photo from the Life Walk website.