Charges have been dropped against a British woman who was arrested in December for silently praying outside an abortion clinic in England, but she has nevertheless decided to pursue a verdict in court to clear her name, her attorneys announced Friday.
Isabel Vaughan-Spruce, who police took into custody for violating a Public Space Protection Order in a viral video, has decided to pursue a verdict so that she can clear her own name and protect other pro-life activists who might run into similar issues in the future.
“It’s vital that I have clarity as to my legal status,” she said in a statement released by her attorneys at the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) UK.
“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,” she added.
Vaughan-Spruce was approached by three police officers in early December while standing across the street from a Birmingham abortion clinic. The officers searched her and ultimately arrested her for violating a speech buffer zone after she conceded that she “might be” silently praying for women undergoing abortions inside.
After criminally charging Vaughan-Spruce with “protesting and engaging in an act that is intimidating to service users” in a censorship zone established by the local city council, the Crown Prosecution Service discontinued the charges, according to ADF. However, authorities warned that the charges could be renewed in the future pending the receipt of new evidence, the organization said.
“It can’t be right that I was arrested and made a criminal, only for praying in my head on a public street. 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,” Vaughan-Spruce said. “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.”
Public Space Protection Orders prohibit certain activities that foster “anti-social behaviour,” according to the policy. The directive is designed to empower local authorities to “counter unreasonable and persistent behaviour that affects the quality of life of its residents,” though it remains unclear which specific behaviors violate the law.