Police in Birmingham, England have dropped criminal charges against the director of March for Life UK for praying silently “in her head” near an abortion clinic that was closed at the time of her arrest.
But Isabel Vaughan-Spruce, who was arrested in December, said she still wants her day in court to pursue full dismissal of her charges in light of claims by authorities that criminal prosecution for her silent prayers could resume at a later date.
“It can’t be right that I was arrested and made a criminal, only for praying in my head on a public street” Vaughan-Spruce stated in a press release. “So-called ‘buffer zone legislation’ will result in so many more people like me, doing good and legal activities like offering charitable support to women in crisis pregnancies, or simply praying in their heads, being treated like criminals and even facing court. It’s important to me that I can continue my vital work in supporting women who’d like to avoid abortion if they only had some help. In order to do so, it’s vital that I have clarity as to my legal status. Many of us need an answer as to whether it’s still lawful to pray silently in our own heads. That’s why I’ll be pursuing a verdict regarding my charges in court.”
Christian legal organization Alliance Defending Freedom UK, which represents Vaughan-Spruce, said their client deserves a verdict in court since Crown Prosecution Service contends that it could reinstate the charges at a later date.
“Isabel is right to request proper clarity as to the lawfulness of our actions,” Jeremiah Igunnubole, legal counsel for ADF UK, stated in a press release. “It’s one thing for the authorities to humiliatingly search and arrest an individual simply for their thoughts. It’s quite another to initially deem those thoughts to be sufficient evidence to justify charges, then discontinue those charges due to ‘insufficient evidence,’ and then to warn that further evidence relating to the already unclear charges may soon be forthcoming so as to restart the entire grueling process from the beginning. This is a clear instance of the process becoming the punishment creating a chilling effect on free expression and freedom of thought, conscience and belief. ADF UK remain committed to supporting Isabel’s pursuit because no one should fear prosecution for silent prayer and thoughts in the privacy of their mind.”
According to a GBNews.UK news story, 45-year-old Isabel Vaughan-Spruce, was merely standing on a sidewalk near an abortion clinic. She held no signs or literature in her hands and her prayers were silent. Reportedly, a passerby suspected Vaughan-Spice was praying and reported her to police.
A video posted along with the news story shows police asking her what she is doing. Vaughan-Spruce tells an officer, “I’m just standing here.” The officer asks, “Are you standing here as part of a protest?” “No,” she answers. “Are you praying,” he asks. “I might be praying in my head,” she responds.
After a brief conversation with the officer about a public order creating a “buffer zone” around the clinic, Vaughan-Spruce was arrested and taken into police custody. She was charged with breaching the buffer zone order on four occasions, GBNews.UK reported.
According to Birmingham’s Public Space Protection Order around the Kings Norton abortion facility, people are forbidden 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. This includes but is not limited to graphic, verbal or written means, prayer or counselling.”
Enacted in September, the order does not define what constitutes prayer, or whether or not the forbidden prayer must be audible or otherwise discernable. The order purports to curb activities “that have had, or are likely to have, a detrimental effect on the quality of life of those in the locality.”
Photo Courtesy of Alliance Defending Freedom UK