Chris Lange, FISM News
A British pro-life advocate was arrested for a second time Monday for silently praying outside an abortion clinic a mere three weeks after a court cleared her of any wrongdoing on the same charges.
Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF UK) announced in a statement Tuesday that March for Life UK Director Isabel Vaughn-Spruce was arrested on charges that she violated a Public Space Protection Order with her silent thoughts outside a Birmingham abortion facility.
The faith-based legal advocacy group that successfully argued for the full dismissal of charges against Vaughn-Spruce last month posted video footage of the second arrest on the group’s Twitter account.
🚨BREAKING: Isabel has been arrested, AGAIN, for THINKING.
MPs vote TOMORROW on banning silent prayer near all abortion facilities in🏴&🏴
"You've said you're engaging in prayer, which is the offense."
"You were still engaging in prayer, which is the offense." pic.twitter.com/AId3OguiXz
— ADF UK (@ADF_UK) March 6, 2023
The footage shows officers ordering Vaughn-Spruce to “step away from here and step outside the exclusion zone,” referring to a certain radius around abortion clinics established in the Public Space Protection Order outlawing demonstrations or harassment of clients seeking abortions within the exclusion zone.
One of the two police officers who arrested Vaughan-Spruce clearly stated in the video that her offense was silent prayer.
“But I’m not protesting. I’m not engaging in any of the activities prohibited,” Vaughn-Spruce told the officers.
“You’ve said you’re engaging in prayer, which is the offense,” one of the officers responded. She pointed out that she was praying silently.
“You were still engaging in prayer, which is the offense,” he replied.
When Vaughn-Spruce repeated that she was not protesting, the officer said that “people know who you are and they know why you’re here” and that, according to “people’s perception,” she was, in fact, protesting.
“Welcome to the UK, where you will be persecuted for free thoughts,” British Christian commentator Anna McGovern wrote in a tweet that included the video footage of Vaughn-Spruce’s arrest.
“Silently praying is now a criminal offense. What a great place to live,” she added.
UK PARLIAMENT APPROVES MEASURE TO CRIMINALIZE SILENT PRAYER
The day after Vaughn-Spruce’s second arrest, Britain’s House of Commons approved legislation to expand “buffer zones” around abortion facilities within which any activity that might potentially dissuade a woman from aborting her unborn child is deemed a criminal act, including silent prayer. Lawmakers rejected a proposed amendment to exempt silent prayer and consensual conversation from the list of prohibited activities.
The amendment, introduced by Conservative MP Andrew Lewer, failed by a vote of 116 to 299.
Speaking in Parliament, Lewer stated,
Censorship of this sort is a notoriously slippery slope. It might not be your thoughts that are criminalized today, but I think we should all be careful not to open the door to that tomorrow about some other opinions that people may hold about something else.
MP Danny Kruger similarly warned: “We are making a momentous step. We are crossing an enormous river. When we criminalize prayer … or indeed consensual conversations … we are doing something of enormous significance.”
“Parliament had an opportunity to reject the criminalization of free thought, which is an absolute right, and embrace individual liberty for all. Instead, Parliament chose to endorse censorship and criminalize peaceful activities such as silent prayer and consensual conversation,” Jeremiah Igunnubole, legal counsel for ADF UK, said in response to the vote, according to a Christian Post report.
Alithea Williams, public policy manager for the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, warned that the buffer zone law “means that ordinary citizens will be branded criminals and subject to crippling financial penalties for witnessing peacefully and offering help to women in need,” Catholic News Agency reported.
“It is very disappointing that MPs have rejected even this modest amendment, which was trying to ensure that thought crime was not enshrined in U.K. law,” Williams said, adding that the vote proves that members of parliament “approve of arresting people even for silent prayer.”
“They heard the outrageous example of Isabel Vaughan-Spruce being arrested for silently praying in Birmingham and decided this needed to happen nationwide,” she said.
Williams argued that pro-life advocates near abortion facilities as “a real lifeline for women.”
“Many children are alive today because their mother received help and support from a compassionate pro-life person outside a clinic,” Williams said. “Many women feel pressured or coerced into having an abortion, and pro-life vigils give them options. Now their choices have been taken away.”