A British pro-life activist was recently arrested and charged for silently praying outside an abortion clinic in Birmingham earlier this month.
On Dec. 6, March for Life UK director Isabel Vaughn-Spruce was arrested outside the BPAS Robert Clinic in Kings Norton, Birmingham.
Last Thursday, Vaughn-Spruce was charged with four counts of violating a Public Space Protection Order, which prohibits "protesting, namely engaging in any act of approval or disapproval or attempted act of approval or disapproval, with respect to issues related to abortion services, by any means," including "graphic, verbal or written means, prayer or counseling" outside of the abortion clinic.
Alliance Defending Freedom International, who is representing the pro-life activist, reports an onlooker notified the police that Vaughn-Spruce had stood outside the abortion clinic on at least three occasions while it was closed, The Christian Post reports.
At the police station, Vaughn-Spruce was shown pictures of herself standing outside the abortion facility. When asked if she was praying, Vaughn-Spruce told the authorities that she could not recall whether she had been praying at that specific moment or if she had been thinking about other things.
As part of her release, Vaughn-Spruce was told she could not contact a local Catholic priest involved in pro-life activism or pray publicly in areas protected by Public Space Protection Orders.
"It's abhorrently wrong that I was searched, arrested, interrogated by police, and charged simply for praying in the privacy of my own mind," Vaughn-Spruce said in a statement.
"Censorship zones purport to ban harassment, which is already illegal. Nobody should ever be subject to harassment," she continued. "But what I did was the furthest thing from harmful — I was exercising my freedom of thought, my freedom of religion, inside the privacy of my own mind."
"Nobody should be criminalized for thinking and for praying in a public space in the UK," Vaughn-Spruce said.
The order, which was first authorized on Sept. 7, covers an area stretching one block to the west, two blocks to the east and one block to the south of the facility. Violators of the order are subject to a fine.
"Isabel's experience should be deeply concerning to all those who believe that our hard-fought fundamental rights are worth protecting," ADF UK Legal Counsel Jeremiah Igunnubole said. "It is truly astonishing that the law has granted local authorities such wide and unaccountable discretion that now even thoughts deemed 'wrong' can lead to a humiliating arrest and a criminal charge."
A "mature democracy should be able to differentiate between criminal conduct and the peaceful exercise of constitutionally protected rights," Igunnubole added.
Last month, before Vaughn-Spruce's arrest, the pro-life campaign "40 Days for Life Birmingham" challenged the Public Safety Protection Order. Vaughn-Spruce leads "40 Days for Life Birmingham."
As of Wednesday afternoon, more than 30,000 people have signed a petition on Citizen Go urging Suella Braveman of UK Home Secretary to dismiss all charges against Vaughn-Spruce.
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Kamonwan Wankaew
Milton Quintanilla is a freelance writer and content creator. He is a contributing writer for Christian Headlines and the host of the For Your Soul Podcast, a podcast devoted to sound doctrine and biblical truth. He holds a Masters of Divinity from Alliance Theological Seminary.