A British pro-life activist has been arrested after claiming she was told by police she may have been silently praying near an abortion clinic when it was closed.
Isabel Vaughan-Spruce was outside a Birmingham clinic when she was charged with four counts of violating a Public Space Protection Order.
The City Council recently introduced buffer zones around abortion clinics which bans any behaviour which may intimidate those using the facility.
The police were tipped off by an anonymous informer who said they saw the pro-lifer outside the clinic on three occasions while it was closed.
She wasn’t carrying any signs or placards.
At the police station, officers showed Ms. Vaughn-Spruce photos of herself outside the clinic and inquired whether she was praying.
She responded by asserting that while she “might” have been praying in some of the pictures, she also could have been thinking about other topics such as her lunch.
Under the initial terms of her release the pro-lifer was told she couldn’t contact a local Catholic priest, a condition that was later dropped.
“It’s abhorrently wrong that I was searched, arrested, interrogated by police, and charged simply for praying in the privacy of my own mind,” Ms. Vaughn-Spruce said in a statement.
“I was exercising my freedom of thought and my freedom of religion inside the privacy of my own mind,” she explained.
“Nobody should be criminalised for thinking and for praying in a public space in the UK.”
Ms. Vaughan-Spruce has written an article about how buffer zones ban silent prayer and the use of the words “mum” or “baby”.
She says an offer of a leaflet of help is branded as “harassment”, prayer is considered “protest” and a pro-lifer’s mere presence is said to be “intimidation”.
She runs the pro-life campaign 40 Days for Life Birmingham which she claims has helped well over 100 women find alternatives to abortion.
Prior to her arrest it filed a legal challenge against the Public Safety Protection Order.
A petition calling for the Home Secretary to dismiss all charges against Ms.Vaughn-Spruce has collected more than 32,000 signatures while aiming for 50,000.