A man from Southampton, U.K., has been fined for praying near an abortion facility in Bournemouth.
Adam Smith-Connor, a British army veteran, stood still and silent on Ophir Road, a public street, for a few minutes before being approached by “community safety accredited officers,” according to an article at adf.uk, the U.K. office of Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), which is supporting the physiotherapist.
Smith-Connor had been praying outside a British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) clinic with his back to the facility in order to be mindful of the privacy of staff and attendees of the abortion center, according to ADF.
He recorded his conversation with the officers and shared footage with ADF UK. After repeatedly being asked what the nature of his prayer was, Smith-Connor told authorities he was praying for his son who died by abortion 22 years ago, a decision that still haunts him to this day.
The officers warned him he was in an area under a Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO), which establishes a “safe zone” around abortion clinics and prohibits “engaging in any act of approval/disapproval,” including praying. The abortion clinic in Bournemouth is the fifth one in the country to have this type of censorship zone, according to local news reports.
“I’m sorry for your loss,” the council officer told Smith-Connor. “But ultimately, I have to go along with the guidelines of the Public Space Protection Order, to say that we are in the belief that therefore you are in breach of clause 4a, which says about prayer, and also acts of disapproval …”
When Smith-Connor interjected, “I’m just standing praying,” she again responded, “I do understand that. But the PSPO is in place for a reason and we have to follow through on those regulations.”
Smith-Connor, clinical director at New Forest Physiotherapy in Southampton, cannot forget that time 22 years ago when he drove his ex-girlfriend to a facility and paid for her to have an abortion.
“It was a pivotal moment in my life,” he said. “The consequences of my actions that day came back to grieve me years later, when I realized I had lost my son Jacob to an abortion I had paid for. Recently, I stood outside a similar facility and prayed to God for my son Jacob, for other babies who have lost their lives to abortion, for their grieving families, and for abortion clinic staff.”
He would never have imagined that praying silently would put him at risk for criminal record.
“In the past, I assisted with abortions in hospital as part of my army medical training, but now I pray for those who perform abortions, because I realise how harmful abortion is to women and families, and that every single human life is valuable—no matter how small,” he said. “Most of all, I’m moved to pray because of what happened to my son.”
ADF UK has engaged a legal team to challenge Smith-Connor’s fine.
“Nobody should be criminalized for what they believe—especially not when they express that belief silently, in the privacy of their own minds,” said Jeremiah Igunnubole, legal counsel for ADF UK. “Just like in the case of Isabel Vaughan-Spruce last month, Adam could now face prosecution for holding thoughts, and lifting those thoughts to God in prayer, within a censorship zone. The rapid proliferation of orders criminalizing volunteers such as Adam and Isabel should be a wake-up call to all those who value freedom of expression—even freedom of thought—no matter their views on abortion.”
Vaughan-Spruce, a pro-life charity worker, was standing near a BPAS clinic in Birmingham when police approached her after an onlooker complained she might be praying outside the abortion facility.
A video of her arrest after she said she “might” be praying silently in a PSPO went viral last month. The charity volunteer will go before the Birmingham Magistrates’ Court on Feb. 2 after being charged for breaching the local PSPO by silently praying in her mind.
Photo Courtesy AFD UK