Pro-life campaigner again questioned by police for silent prayer

Pro-life campaigner Isabel Vaughan-Spruce has been issued with a fine by police officers in Birmingham after they approached her for silently praying outside an abortion clinic.

This is the third time Miss Vaughan-Spruce, Director of March for Life UK, has had difficulties with West Midlands Police. She was first arrested last December, and then in March also for praying while inside an abortion censorship zone.

In the first instance, she was arrested but was cleared by a magistrates’ court of wrongdoing, and on the second occasion the police dropped the investigation and she received an apology for her ordeal.

Silent prayer

A video has now surfaced of the most recent interaction with two Police Community Support Officers on 18 October, during which she was being questioned as to what she was doing while in the vicinity of the abortion clinic.

The officer asked Vaughan-Spruce if she was part of an organised protest, or part of a pro-life organisation. The campaigner said she was not protesting, and while she was part of an organisation, she was not there in that capacity.

The officer told her that she was in breach of a Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO), which prevents activities such as protesting in favour of or against abortion, including offering prayer or counselling.

‘I’m not protesting’

The campaigner said she did not believe she was in breach of the order, or that she was required to move outside the zone to continue praying, adding: “I believe I’ve got a right to be here.”

Reading from a sheet of paper, the officer then said: “If you believe that you’re present to protest in any form, obviously we’re going to need to issue you with a fixed penalty notice.”

“This is the third time I have been treated like a criminal for peacefully, silently, and imperceptibly praying for women who are likely facing one of the worst days of their lives.”

Vaughan-Spruce reiterated: “I’m not here to protest”, and when the officer maintained she was breaching the PSPO, she repeated: “I’m not protesting”.

She was issued with a Fixed Penalty Notice and although the Council later said it would not pursue the fine, it warned that it would do so in the future.

‘Grossly Orwellian’

Vaughan-Spruce said: “The UK government urgently needs to clarify that silent thoughts can never be illegal – even if those thoughts are in disagreement with the views of the State.

“This is the third time I have been treated like a criminal for peacefully, silently, and imperceptibly praying for women who are likely facing one of the worst days of their lives.

“The buffer zone regulation has already sought to prevent me and others from counselling women desperately in need of help. And now, authorities are trying to remove my ability even to pray for these women. To fine somebody simply for their thoughts is grossly Orwellian and an insult to the freedoms that Britain is meant to protect.”

Two others have also been approached by the police at the same location in recent weeks. Patrick Parkes was questioned about the content of his private, silent prayers, and then warned that repeated behaviour would be met with a fine, while another individual was warned for filming the interaction.

Also see:

Police end investigation into pro-lifer’s silent prayer

Two arrested for breaching new NI abortion ‘buffer zones’ law

Bill to ban prayer outside abortion centres in Scotland launched

Thousands of pro-lifers march to Parliament Square

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