UK: Anti-abortion activist rearrested for silent prayer in buffer zone around abortion clinic

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United Kingdom

by Karen Faulkner, Worthy News Correspondent

(Worthy News) – A Catholic anti-abortion activist in Birmingham, England has been rearrested for violating a local Public Spaces Protection Order by standing silently and praying inside a buffer zone around a closed abortion clinic, the Washington Times reports.

Prior to her rearrest on Monday, Isabel Vaughan-Spruce had been acquitted by a Birmingham court of the exact same allegation but pertaining to a different day and incident last year.

Ms. Vaughan-Spruce was rearrested by West Midlands Police on Monday as she stood near the British Pregnancy Advisory Service’s clinic in the Kings Norton area of Birmingham, the Times said.

Ms. Vaughan-Spruce said her purpose in being there was to pray silently, but the clinic is subject to a Public Spaces Protection Order which prohibits protest by “graphic, verbal or written means, prayer or counseling.”

Video footage released by Alliance Defending Freedom UK, the legal group representing Ms. Vaughan-Spruce, shows her being approached by an officer who tells her “protests” – including silent prayer vigils – are not allowed in the restricted area, and she would be arrested if she refused to step outside it, the Times reports.

Although the clinic was closed at the time, and Ms. Vaughan-Spruce was not praying out loud, the officer is heard saying: “But people know who you are, and they know why you’re here. … And it’s their perception of events, isn’t it?”

Ms. Vaughan-Spruce was previously arrested for the same action outside a closed abortion clinic in December last year. Unusually, the Crown Prosecution Service dropped the charges but stipulated the charges could be revived, leaving Ms. Vaughan-Spruce in a legal quandary. Ms. Vaughan-Spruce then demanded a trial to settle the matter – and was acquitted by a Birmingham magistrate’s court on February 16.

Concerning her new case, Elyssa Koren, legal communications director for ADF International said in a statement: “It is outrageous that Isabel was arrested for the same act — peaceful and entirely silent prayer — for which she was acquitted last month. Her second arrest shows the state of mass legal uncertainty that censorship zones engender.”

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