UK Health Minister Slams Arrest of Christian Woman for Praying at Abortion Clinic

International   |   Micaiah Bilger   |   Dec 30, 2022   |   11:24AM   |   London, England

A British Health Minister added her voice to growing outrage about the arrest of a pro-life woman who was praying silently outside a Birmingham abortion facility earlier this month.

Yahoo News UK reports Conservative MP Maria Caulfield, a nurse and health ministry leader, said people did not believe her when she warned them that this would happen.

“People told me I was exaggerating when I said Christians would be arrested on the streets of England with the buffer zone legislation,” she wrote Dec. 23, sharing a video from the Daily Signal of the woman’s arrest. “A Christian country at Christmas and police arresting some for saying a prayer.”

The video, which has more than 4.8 million views, shows police arresting pro-life advocate Isabel Vaughan-Spruce on Dec. 6 after they asked her if she was praying silently outside the BPAS Robert Clinic abortion facility in Kings Norton, Birmingham.

Vaughan-Spruce was charged with violating the Birmingham buffer zone ordinance, or public spaces protection order (PSPO), which prohibits “engaging in any act of approval or disapproval or attempted act of approval or disapproval” about abortion, including through “verbal or written means, prayer or counselling…” near an abortion facility.

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On Twitter, Caulfield corrected misleading claims, perpetuated by social media “fact checkers” and mainstream news outlets, that Vaughan-Spruce was not arrested for praying.

“The restriction order prohibits praying. So she was arrested for praying,” Caulfield responded.

Other lawmakers, including MPs Alexander Stafford and Neil O’Brien, also condemned her arrest.

“This is why I couldn’t vote for such awful legislation,” Stafford wrote. “The UK is a free, Christian country and people should be able to pray whenever, or where ever they want.”

She is not the first. According to Alliance Defending Freedom, a legal group representing Vaughan-Spruce, her arrest follows another recent incident in Bournemouth where authorities told a woman to leave because she was praying – even though she was outside of the local buffer zone.

A grandmother from Liverpool also was arrested and fined for silently praying near an abortion facility during the COVID-19 pandemic, but a court overturned the charges last year, according to ADF.

Currently, five cities in the UK have buffer zones that restrict free speech within a certain distance of an abortion facility, and some of them expressly prohibit prayer, National Review writer Caroline Downey reports. For example, in Bournemouth, “’prayer or counseling’ is criminalized. It is also an offense to ‘genuflect’ or ‘cross themselves,’” Downey said.

Right now, Parliament is considering a nation-wide buffer zone that would prohibit peaceful pro-life outreach near abortion facilities all across the UK. Violators could be punished with up to two years in prison.

“It’s abhorrently wrong that I was searched, arrested, interrogated by police and charged simply for praying in the privacy of my own mind,” Vaughan-Spruce said in a statement earlier this month. “Nobody should be criminalized for thinking and for praying, in a public space in the UK.”

Vaughan-Spruce is the director of the UK March for Life and has volunteered for many years helping women in crisis pregnancies.