Police arrest pro-life supporter for ‘silent prayer crime’ near closed abortion centre

Police have arrested and charged a pro-life supporter for silently praying near an abortion facility.

Officers detained Isabel Vaughan-Spruce after she admitted praying in her mind within a council-imposed censorship zone around a British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) abortion centre in Birmingham. The centre was closed at the time.

Individual local authorities have powers to use Public Spaces Protection Orders (PSPO) to enforce zones. In October, MPs backed the introduction of similar zones across England and Wales.


Police approached Miss Vaughan-Spruce while she was standing near the BPAS Robert Clinic in Kings Norton, after receiving a complaint that she might be praying.

Recounting what happened, Vaughan-Spruce, a Roman Catholic, said: “I was searched, arrested, interrogated by police and charged simply for praying in the privacy of my own mind.”

She added: “Nobody should be criminalised for thinking and for praying in a public space in the UK”.

Vaughan-Spruce also admitted to the police that she had stood near the abortion centre on three further occasions where some of the time she “might” also have been praying.

Beyond belief

The Birmingham censorship zone criminalises individuals perceived to be “engaging in any act of approval or disapproval or attempted act of approval or disapproval” in relation to abortion, including through “verbal or written means, prayer or counselling”.

Speaking to The Christian Institute, Miss Vaughan-Spruce confirmed that she was not protesting or expressing disapproval about abortion, but rather praying for friends who had gone through terrible abortion experiences.

With the prospect of censorship zones being imposed across the British Isles, she put her experience into context, asking: “Are certain thoughts going to be prohibited within those areas. Are we going to have our thoughts censored, what we can and can’t think in those areas?”

“It’s unbelievable that police would seriously be trying to clamp down on what people are thinking”. “But”, she concluded, “this is the reality. This is what’s happening. Thought is becoming a crime”.

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Jeremiah Igunnubole, Legal Counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) – the organisation supporting Vaughan-Spruce, described the pro-life campaigner’s experience as “deeply concerning”.

He 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.”

Police statement

In a statement, West Midlands Police said: “Isabel Vaughan-Spruce was arrested on 6 December and subsequently charged on 15 December with four counts of failing to comply with a Public Space Protection Order (PSPO). She was bailed to appear at Birmingham Magistrates Court on 2 February 2023.”

She is charged with ‘protesting’ and ‘intimidating service users’.

Under the conditions of her bail, according to ADF, Vaughan-Spruce has been told that she must not engage in public prayer beyond the PSPO area to prevent further offences.

Also see:

Hand of baby and adult

Scot Govt to push nationwide abortion censorship zones ‘as soon as possible’

Supreme Court backs NI abortion censorship zones outlawing silent prayer

MPs back nationwide abortion censorship zones

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