A UK court has acquitted a pro-life activist and a Catholic priest of violating a Public Space Protection Order by silently praying outside of an abortion clinic.
According to Alliance Defending Freedom U.K., pro-life activist Isabel Vaughn-Spruce and Father Sean Gough were found not guilty by the Birmingham Magistrates’ Court on all charges for praying silently outside the BPAS Robert Clinic in Birmingham, England.
Vaughn-Spruce and Gough had been recently charged for violating a Public Space Protection Order, which prohibits people from “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.”
The PSPO has been described by critics as a “censorship zone” since it prohibits people from the right to protest and freedom of speech, The Christian Post reported.
“Today’s court case is of great cultural significance. This isn’t 1984, but 2023 – nobody should be criminalised for their thoughts, for their prayers, for peaceful expression on a public street. It’s a great moment to celebrate the vindication of Father Sean and Isabel,” said ADF UK Legal Counsel Jeremiah Igunnuoble in a statement.
“But our parliament is considering rolling out censorial legislation, which could lead to more situations where people’s thoughts are on trial. Let’s be clear – if Isabel or Fr Sean had been stood in the same spot thinking different thoughts, they likely wouldn’t have been arrested.”
“We all stand firmly against harassment on public streets. Harassment is already illegal,” he contended. “A government review in 2018 found that harassment near abortion facilities is rare, and peaceful prayer and offers of charitable help were the most common activities there. The government concluded at that point that censorship zones would be disproportionate. No further reviews have since been conducted. What has now changed?”
Despite the charges against Vaughn-Spruce and Gough previously being dropped, prosecutors sought clarity from the court to determine whether charges would be laid against them in the future.
The proposed legislation charges anyone partaking in activities with “the intent of” effecting or “influencing any person’s decision to access, provide or facilitate the provision of abortion services,” while protests within about 400 feet of abortion clinics would be prohibited.
Additionally, the bill allows for a “safe access zone” which would extend to “any access point to any building or site that contains an abortion clinic” that is “on or adjacent to a public highway or public right of way,” “an open space to which the public has access,” “within the curtilage of an abortion clinic, or building or site” containing a facility or in “any location that is visible from a public highway, public right of way, open space to which the public have access or the curtilage of an abortion clinic.”
Photo courtesy: ©ADF UK, used with permission.
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.