Woman arrested for silently praying near abortion clinic will continue
‘Our silent thoughts are nobody’s business’: Catholic woman who was twice arrested for silently praying near abortion clinic says she fears police are becoming ‘ideologically driven’ – as she vows to carry on doing it on a weekly basis
A Catholic woman who was twice arrested for silently praying near an abortion clinic has said silent thoughts ‘are nobody’s business but our own’ as she vows to continue praying outside the centre on a weekly basis.
Video has previously shown Christian campaigner Isabel Vaughan-Spruce being confronted by police outside the BPAS Robert Clinic in Kings Norton, Birmingham, in February.
Officers from West Midlands Police told her ‘engaging in prayer’ was ‘the offence’ after she insisted she was ‘not protesting’ – but police have since said ‘there will be no further investigation’ into the incident and have apologised to her.
Ms Vaughan-Spruce’s arrest came weeks after she was found not guilty by Birmingham Magistrates Court for silently praying outside the same clinic in December last year.
Speaking to the MailOnline, she has today voiced her her fears that police are becoming too ‘ideologically and politically driven rather than driven by the law.’
Ms Vaughan-Spruce, who is the director of anti-abortion group March for Life UK, said she is ‘appalled’ her situation took so long to end – and will not be deterred.
Speaking to the MailOnline, Isabel Vaughan-Spruce has today voiced her her fears that police are becoming too ‘ideologically and politically driven rather than driven by the law’
‘I definitely plan to continue silently praying [outside the abortion centre] – I have every intention to do that,’ she said.
‘I’m appalled it’s taken so long for this situation to come to an end and delighted it’s become clear now that I can continue to pray.’
She said she intends to pray outside the clinic in Kings Norton on a weekly basis and will start ‘straight away’.
Speaking about what drives her to do so, she said: ‘When I first started doing this work it was more about injustice towards the unborn child, but I really see the injustice towards women – and some men. I’ve met so many women who felt coerced into it and many women who have had a lack of support and lack of alternative.
‘I believe there should be a real alternative to women if they want to continue the pregnancy, we are there to make sure they have an alternative.
‘As a Christian, I believe in the power of prayer.’
Asked if she fears further arrest or confrontation by police, Ms Vaughan-Spruce said: ‘I hope that now I have had two charges that have come to an end and also with the statement made by Suella Braverman, I hope that has given everyone the clarity they need of what should have been obvious to people – that our silent thoughts are nobody’s business but our own.’
In March a group of Tory and DUP MPs tabled an amendment aimed at ensuring no offence is committed if a person is ‘engaged in consensual communication or in silent prayer’ outside the clinics or hospitals offering abortion services.
In a free vote, the proposal was rejected by 116 votes to 299, majority 183.
The division list showed Home Secretary Suella Braverman and Attorney General Victoria Prentis were among the 109 Conservative MPs, two of whom were tellers, who supported the amendment while 109 Tory MPs voted against.
She said she intends to pray outside the clinic in Kings Norton on a weekly basis and will start ‘straight away’
Ms Vaughan-Spruce, who is the director of anti-abortion group March for Life UK
Read more: ‘This isn’t 1984’: Catholic woman who was told ‘praying is an offence’ as she was arrested in ‘exclusion zone’ around abortion clinic vows to keep on doing it – as police drop investigation following six-month ordeal
On the police investigation, Ms Vaughan-Spruce said: ‘I’m concerned things have been more ideologically and politically driven. The fact that my arrest came two weeks after I had been acquitted of the same thing – we need to look at police forces and whether they are being driven politically rather than by the law.
‘I’m glad they have recognised it was too long to leave me six months to hear back but it should never have been that. That’s a lot of time to have something hanging over you and I hope they realise the affect it has.’
Asked what she would say to people who argued she was intimidating women going into the clinic, Isabel argued it would not be clear to anyone walking past what she was doing as she was stood ‘motionless’.
‘How can silent prayer be classed as harassment?
‘I was not holding up a cross or Bible or leaflets. Nobody would know that I was praying unless they asked.’
Ms Vaughan-Spruce said she has concerns about ‘buffer zones’ which she argues have been brought about off the back of ‘gossip’.
Ms Vaughan-Spruce has asked ‘how can silent prayer be classed as harassment?’
Officers from West Midlands Police told her ‘engaging in prayer’ was ‘the offence’ after she insisted she was ‘not protesting’
Ms Vaughan-Spruce’s arrest came weeks after she was found not guilty by Birmingham Magistrates Court for silently praying outside the same clinic in December last year (above)
Buffer zones were introduced as an amendment to the Public Order Bill last year.
The UK’s first buffer zone was introduced around an abortion clinic in Ealing, west London, in 2018.
Buffer zones have been hailed by pro-choice campaigners as an important step towards de-stigmatising abortion and preventing the harassment of those who attend abortion clinics.
However, critics see them as an attack on freedom of expression.
Ms Vaughan-Spruce added: ‘I have never harassed anybody and yet we have been harassed.’
The video that went viral showed officers asking Ms Vaughan-Spruce to ‘step outside the exclusion zone’ that exists around the Birmingham clinic.
However, she told officers that she was ‘not protesting’ and ‘not engaging in any of the activities prohibited’.
Police responded: ‘But you’ve said you’re engaging in prayer, which is the offence’, to which she replies: ‘Silent prayer.’
The officer then said: ‘No, but you were still engaging in prayer. It is an offence’, to which Ms Vaughan-Spruce answered: ‘I disagree.’
She was then arrested by six officers for breaching what is officially known as a Public Space Protection Order (PSPO).
Jeremiah Igunnubole, Legal Counsel, ADF UK, representing Ms Vaughan-Spruce said that ‘when you consider that we have never before in modern British History seen an arrest and prosecution based purely on the content of the thoughts in the privacy of an individual’s mind, and then you consider that Isabel was previously arrested for silently praying and completely vindicated by the Crown Prosecution Service and Birmingham Magistrates’ Court just two weeks before she was again arrested for the activities taking place in her mind’ then you realise that the ‘state of fundamental rights and civil liberties in this country are in great peril.’
He added: ‘If the state can penalise you for the thoughts in the privacy of your mind then there is nothing they do not have the power to do. We are a country that believes in the rule of law and the protection of basic rights– police officers shouldn’t throw away this rich legal tradition in order to be seen to be supportive of progressive causes.’
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