British woman arrested for praying in silence outside abortion clinic

Earlier this month, a pro-life woman was arrested for praying in silence outside an abortion clinic in Birmingham, UK, for violating a speech buffer zone set up by local city council.

Police told Isabel Vaughan-Spruce that she was being held in custody for violating a public space protection order. Video of the arrest was captured by AllThingsProLife and distributed by the Alliance Defending Freedom, which is hosting a fundraiser for Vaughan-Spruce’s legal defense.

When officers asked her if she was part of a protest, she replied “no.” They then asked if she prayed, to which she said she could do so “in my head.” The police then searched her and stroked her hair before handcuffing her and escorting her to the police station.

Vaughan-Spruce was subsequently charged last week with four counts of violating a public space order that bans certain activities that the policy says encourage “anti-social behavior.” The policy aims to allow local authorities to counter “inappropriate and persistent behavior that affects the quality of life of their residents,” although it remains unclear what specific behaviors violate the law.

For example, in the London Borough of Brent, the PSPO was developed to combat public defecation, alcohol consumption, aggressive job seeking and the operation of an unlicensed transport service. The PSPO guide also has a section on combating dangerous dogs.

Five local councils have already established such zones, some carefully advertised with signs advising that free speech is restricted on the site. In October, a PSPO was declared around an abortion facility in Bournemouth, UK. An image of a sign provided to outlined in red the area where a number of activities were prohibited. These included “prayer or consultation” as well as “holding vigils at which members audibly pray, recite scriptures, bend the knee, sprinkle holy water on the floor, or cross themselves when they perceive a service user passing.”

The PSPO order, which Vaughan-Spruce allegedly broke, was imposed by Birmingham City Council on September 7, banning all abortion demonstrations outside the clinic. Standing alone in front of the building, Vaughan-Spruce reportedly carried no placard, candles for a vigil, or graphic images that residents might find disturbing, according to the video. Vaughan-Spruce is scheduled to appear in Birmingham Magistrates Court on February 2, 2023.

“The PSPO, which protects the area around the Robert Clinic, is focused on ensuring people visiting and working there have free access without fear of confrontation. Any local authority wishing to implement a PSPO must have solid evidence of its implementation guiding the conditions and location – this includes concerns and complaints from the community,” a Birmingham City Council spokesman said when the order was issued .

Prior to the enforcement of the order, a public consultation was held to gather views and wider input. “All contributions received during the consultation were included in the evidence informing the final scope and terms,” ​​the spokesperson added. The exclusion zone was supposed to be extended to nearby schools and churches, but was abandoned after the public comment period ended.

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