The nonprofit law firm Alliance Defending Freedom UK (ADF UK) reports their client, Isabel Vaughan-Spruce, has been arrested for the second time for the "offense" of silently praying in her head within an abortion facility censorship zone or "buffer zone".
Her arrest comes just weeks after being acquitted by a UK court for the same violation.
As CBN News reported in February, Vaughan-Spruce, a pro-life volunteer, and co-director of March for Life UK went to trial for praying silently in an abortion clinic censorship zone. She was criminally charged with violating a local Public Spaces Protection Order last December and was acquitted of all charges by Birmingham Magistrates' Court.
Vaughan-Spruce was arrested again on Monday outside the BPAS Robert Clinic in Birmingham. Her exchange with two police officers was captured in a video clip that was released on social media by ADF UK.
In the 46-second video, Vaughan-Spruce is shown standing still with her back to a hedge and her hands placed in her coat pockets.
Then several police officers approach her. One officer asks her, "Can I please ask you to step away from here and step outside the exclusion zone?"
Vaughan-Spruce replied, "But I'm not protesting. I'm not engaging in any of the activities prohibited."
"But you said you were engaging in prayer which is the offense," the officer responded.
"Silent prayer," Vaughan-Spruce counters.
"No, but you were still engaging in prayer. It is an offense," the officer explained.
Vaughan-Spruce told the officer she disagreed.
"Okay, then. So you would rather that you be arrested and taken away than stand outside the exclusion zone. Is that what you're saying," the officer asked her.
Vaughan-Spruce again told the officer she was not committing any offense. She wasn't intimidating or harassing or protesting.
The two officers remain standing near her but turn away from her as the video ends.
BREAKING: Isabel has been arrested, AGAIN, for THINKING.
MPs vote TOMORROW on banning silent prayer near all abortion facilities in&
"You've said you're engaging in prayer, which is the offense."
"You were still engaging in prayer, which is the offense." pic.twitter.com/AId3OguiXz
— ADF UK (@ADF_UK) March 6, 2023
Although two police officers are seen in the video clip, the ADF UK said six police officers were involved in Vaughan-Spruce's arrest on Monday.
Her bail conditions prohibit her from standing in an area even beyond the censorial "buffer zone" around an abortion facility.
"Only three weeks ago, it was made clear by the court that my silent prayers were not a crime. And yet, again, I have been arrested and treated as a criminal for having the exact same thoughts in my head, in the same location," Vaughan-Spruce said in a statement. "The ambiguity of laws that limit free expression and thought – even in peaceful, consensual conversation or in silent, internal prayer – leads to abject confusion, to the detriment of important fundamental rights. Nobody should be criminalized for their thoughts."
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In a follow-up tweet, with a video clip showing even more of the interaction between the charity worker and the police officers, the ADF UK wrote, "Police wrongly claimed that the PSPO 'buffer zone' banned Isabel from simply standing near a clinic. This is simply not true. A court ruled only weeks ago that Isabel broke no laws by thinking a prayer in her mind. How can MPs (Members of Parliament) roll out this law with so little clarity?"
Police wrongly claimed that the PSPO "buffer zone" banned Isabel from simply standing near a clinic.
This is simply not true. A court ruled only weeks ago that Isabel broke no laws by thinking a prayer in her mind.
How can MPs roll out this law with so little clarity? pic.twitter.com/whcuDtKvz5
— ADF UK (@ADF_UK) March 6, 2023
House of Commons to Debate Censorship Zones Across UK
On Tuesday, the House of Commons is scheduled to debate the rollout of censorship zones around abortion facilities across the United Kingdom.
Clause 10 of the Public Order Bill would criminalize any form of "influencing" outside of abortion facilities, which would include prayer, consensual peaceful conversations, or offers of help about services available to those who would like an alternative choice to abortion, according to the ADF UK.
Andrew Lewer MP has proposed an amendment to the bill that would exempt silent prayer and consensual conversations from the ban.
The nonprofit law firm tweeted their support of Lewer's amendment, writing: "MPs CAN amend Clause 10 of the Public Order Bill. This isn't 1984. The UK Parliament should not be introducing the first thoughtcrime into UK law. ASK YOUR MP to support @ALewerMBE's amendments to exempt silent prayer and consensual conversation from the ban."
In a statement, ADF UK Legal Counsel Jeremiah Igunnubole said, "There is no room for 'thoughtcrime' in modern UK law."
"MPs will for the first time in Modern British history be able to vote to make it abundantly clear that there is no room for 'thoughtcrime' in modern UK law. It is deeply concerning that the basic rights of freedom of thought, peaceful expression, and individual liberty are even up for debate," Igunnubole said.
"This isn't 1984, but 2023 – nobody should be criminalized for their thoughts, for their prayers, and for a consensual conversation on a public street," he continued.
"MPs should use their vote today to uphold freedom to pray, and have consensual conversations, on our streets," Igunnubole noted.
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