Activist Threatened with Arrest for Holding Abortion Image
NBRL Press Release
An incident this morning has raised concerns about police impartiality on the abortion issue and prompted allegations that Fredericton Police Department is failing to respect the civil liberties of pro-life protesters.
Activist Suzie Ryan was threatened with arrest this morning for holding an abortion image outside the Morgentaler abortion clinic in Fredericton NB. What astonishes Mrs. Ryan is that she was cleared of all charges following a 2006 arrest for holding the same sign at the same location. She says she does not understand her treatment by police today. She has previously displayed the image without incident.
Mrs. Ryan arrived at the site with the image of a 10 week aborted baby at about 8 a.m. Apparently responding to a complaint by the clinic, a police car arrived at approximately 8:30. A female officer, identified as Constable Hardy, immediately tried to confiscate the sign, saying it was "gross." When Mrs. Ryan explained her legal background with the sign, the officer was unmoved and threatened to arrest her. Mrs. Ryan felt forced to withdraw with the sign. She feels the police were overly aggressive and that her civil liberties were violated.
In April, 2007 the local Crown Prosecutors’ Office withdrew a criminal charge of "obscenity" for displaying the image. This action was in line with legal precedents for dealing with the display of similar images elsewhere in Canada.
Local pro-lifers feel that today’s incident illustrates a troubling bias and lack of professional conduct that has also characterized other recent police conduct.
The police have repeatedly failed to take action to deal with cars belonging to clinic personnel / clients illegally parked along the public sidewalk outside the facility. This situation has forced not only pro-life protesters but children attending the adjacent George St. Middle School into walking unsafely into the street.
Clinic personnel have also reportedly taken to closely shadowing some pro-life protesters where they stand or move. One woman who prays regularly at the site says she feels stalked, harassed and intimidated by such behaviour. Yet when she complained July 7 to police officers who observed the scene no action was taken.
All of the above can be verified by several witnesses. Local blogger and activist Charles LeBlanc videotaped Constable Hardy speaking to another pro-life protester and repeating the threat to arrest anyone holding the abortion image.
NB Right to Life has had its own experience with the City of Fredericton’s unfriendliness to pro-life expression. In December, 2007 the City banned a bus shelter low-key Right to Life ad displaying a pregnant woman, saying it was "political." The case is currently before the NB Human Rights Commission. Last week the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that Vancouver’s blanket ban on political advertising on city buses is unconstitutional.