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

A man and a woman have become the first to be arrested under Northern Ireland’s new abortion ‘buffer zones’ law.

Last week, censorship zones of between 100 and 250 metres were set up around eight hospitals and centres where abortions take place or where abortion pills are given out.

Under the Abortion Services (Safe Access Zones) Act (Northern Ireland) 2023, anyone “preventing or impeding access” to an abortion facility, or who causes “harassment, alarm or distress” to or even ‘influences’ a pregnant woman, within the radius is committing a criminal offence and can be fined up to £500.

Double arrest

On Saturday, pro-life supporters at Craigavon Area Hospital were moved on by police, but on Tuesday, the man and woman praying and holding pro-life signs outside Causeway Hospital in Coleraine were told to leave by officers. They refused and were arrested, and were later released on bail pending further enquiries.

A fellow pro-lifer who knew the pair said they had been coming to pray outside the hospital weekly after regulations permitting abortion were introduced in Northern Ireland in March 2020.

He said: “We are not part of an organisation, we are just individuals who gather there on Wednesdays because we understand that is the day that abortifacient pills are handed out to pregnant women there”.

“We stand there to reach out to mothers who are on the brink, praying that cars will do a U-turn – and we have seen that happen.”

Silent prayer

Last December, Isabel Vaughan-Spruce, Director of pro-life charity March for Life UK, was arrested for silently praying outside an abortion clinic in Birmingham while it was closed.

Charges were eventually dropped by the CPS, but she still faced a magistrates’ court, which cleared her of all charges.

She was arrested for the same offence later in the year, but last month West Midlands Police informed Miss Vaughan-Spruce that “there will be no further investigation” and “no further action taken” into the alleged incident.

Welcoming the police decision, she said: “This isn’t 1984, but 2023 – I should never have been arrested or investigated simply for the thoughts I held in my own mind. Silent prayer is never criminal.”

Also see:

Abortion censorship zones come into force in NI

Police end investigation into pro-lifer’s silent prayer

Solemn witness to ‘10 million lives extinguished by abortion’

RC Archbishop decries censorship of ‘respectful pro-life witness’ in NI

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