York Police Ignore First Amendment Rights, Harass Pro-Life Protesters

Excerpts from “Cops use handcuffs to choke free speech”
By Chelsea Schilling, – 7/4/07

[] – Pro-life protesters who claim York, Pa., police repeatedly violated their free speech rights while they were handing out tracts and preaching outside the city’s Planned Parenthood clinic are taking their case to federal court.

John McTernan, Edward D. Snell, John Wood and Luanne Ferguson have filed a civil suit against York police for being “chilled, frustrated and deterred in the exercise of their First Amendment activities due to the city’s policy of ignoring First Amendment rights.”

Chaplain John McTernan is a former federal agent and co-founder of the Christian police group International Cops for Christ. He told WND, “Since 1999 or 2000, York police’s conduct has been outrageous toward pro-life advocates at the Planned Parenthood abortion center.”

McTernan cites incidents of abuse and complacency on the part of city police officers who are compensated by Planned Parenthood to work overtime shifts standing outside of the clinic. Uniformed officers are said to be paid $37.50 per hour, and they sign up for shifts on a volunteer basis.

“They watched one woman get beaten. She had to be put in the hospital,” McTernan said. “High speed cars have attempted to run us over. We have videos of most of it. They won’t do anything.”

Another pro-life advocate, Ed Snell, was charged with disorderly conduct after attempting to hand tracts to pregnant women who were entering the clinic. The charges were later dropped.

In addition to allegedly turning a blind eye on assault, McTernan said police do not respond when children enter the clinics for abortions. He said some look as young as 13 years old. McTernan took pictures of the children to the district attorney and other authorities, but he said nothing has been done.

“We point out how young they are, and the police refuse to do anything,” he said. “You name it, and it is going on there. I’ve got DVDs of me standing in front of a police officer, pointing out the kids and saying ‘look!’ He asked me, ‘Have you seen her birth certificate? Do you know how old she is?’”

McTernan said even with his background as a federal agent, he is shocked at how York police have treated pro-life advocates.

“The behavior of the York city police and the DA office is frightening,” McTernan told WND.

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