Isabel Vaughan-Spruce / ADF UK
CNA Newsroom, Dec 21, 2022 / 07:20 am (CNA).
A pro-life volunteer has been arrested and charged after silently praying outside an abortion facility in Birmingham, U.K.
Isabel Vaughan-Spruce, the director of March for Life UK, was arrested on Dec. 6 and charged on Dec. 15 with four counts of breaking a Public Space Protection Order (PSPO).
A PSPO is intended to stop antisocial behavior. Police were responding to a complaint from a member of the public who believed that Vaughan-Spruce was praying silently.
As part of her bail conditions, restrictions have been placed on her participating in public prayer. Another requirement of her bail, later dropped, banned her from contacting a local priest involved in pro-life work.
Vaughan-Spruce was carrying no placards or signs. After her arrest, she was shown pictures of herself quietly standing in the vicinity of the abortion clinic in Kings Norton, Birmingham.
She had been spotted near the clinic three times, and when asked about these occasions, she explained that she might have been praying, but she may also have been thinking about other things. Her thoughts, she explained, were all peaceful and not worthy of being criminalized.
Speaking about her work, Vaughan-Spruce said: “I have devoted much of my life to supporting women in crisis pregnancies with everything that they need to make an empowered choice for motherhood.”
“My faith is a central part of who I am, so sometimes I’ll stand or walk near an abortion facility and pray about this issue. This is something I’ve done pretty much every week for around the last 20 years of my life.”
Buffer zones have been introduced around abortion clinics by many local councils in the U.K. Politicians are currently debating whether to introduce them nationally.
The proposed zone would be a 150-meter radius around abortion clinics.
Clause 9 of the bill currently under debate in the U.K. Parliament would prevent people from “influencing,” “advising,” “persuading,” “informing,” “occupying space,” or even “expressing opinion” near an abortion clinic.
A two-year prison sentence could be incurred for failure to adhere to the proposed rules.
“Isabel’s experience should be deeply concerning to all those who believe that our hard-fought fundamental rights are worth protecting,” said Jeremiah Igunnubole, legal counsel for ADF UK.
“The recent increase in buffer zone legislation and orders is a watershed moment in our country. We must ask ourselves whether we are a genuinely democratic country committed to protecting the peaceful exercise of the right to freedom of speech.”
Vaughan-Spruce will appear at Birmingham Magistrates’ Court on Feb. 2, 2023.