A pro-life UK activist was arrested this week for a second time after silently praying near an abortion facility located in a “buffer zone” or censorship region in Birmingham, England.
Isabel Vaughan-Spruce’s arrest comes only weeks after she was cleared of all criminal charges for breaking a Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO).
The Birmingham authorities created a buffer zone around abortion clinics, which prohibits people from engaging in any behavior that demonstrates approval or disapproval as it relates to abortion and includes “verbal or written means” such as “prayer or counseling.”
When the authorities approached Vaughan-Spruce and asked her to step outside the exclusion zone, she replied: “I’m not protesting, I’m not engaging in any of the activities prohibited.”
“But you said you are engaging in prayer, which is the offense,” an officer said.
“Silent prayer,” she responded.
“No, but you were still engaging in prayer,” he said. “It is an offense.”
When Vaughan-Spruce disagreed with the officer, he told her that she could step outside the exclusion zone or face arrest.
Vaughan-Spruce went on to say that it was just three weeks ago that she was cleared of all criminal charges made against her, adding, “And yet again, I have been arrested and treated as a criminal for having the exact same thoughts in my head, in the same location.”
“The ambiguity of laws that limit free expression and thought – even in peaceful consensual conversation or in silent, internal prayer – leads to abject confusion, to the detriment of important fundamental rights,” she noted. “Nobody should be criminalised for their thoughts.”
The House of Commons voted 116-299 on Tuesday that would make all forms of influence outside abortion facilities in England illegal, which apparently includes silent prayer.
Alithea Williams, public policy manager for the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, stated that the existence of the buffer zone “means that ordinary citizens will be branded criminals and subject to crippling financial penalties for witnessing peacefully and offering help to women in need.”
“Many children are alive today because their mother received help and support from a compassionate pro-life person outside a clinic,” Williams added. “Many women feel pressured or coerced into having an abortion, and pro-life vigils give them options. Now their choices have been taken away.”
ADF UK—a faith-based legal advocacy organization—has started a support page for Vaughan-Spruce. The charity notes that Vaughan-Spruce was arrested for a second time for “thought crime,” and asks for support from those who believe that everyone should have the right to think freely without the fear of being arrested.
The organization has raised £26,217 at the time of this report.