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UK Police Officer Confronts Pro-Life Woman: 'Are You Praying?'

AP Photo/Jessie Wardarski

Earlier this month, Isabel Vaughan-Spruce was approached by UK police as she was standing quietly on a street corner in Kings Norton, Birmingham, outside of an abortion clinic. 

While Vaughan-Spruce is the director of UK March for Life, she had no posters with her or leaflets she was handing out. She was soon informed, however, that she was under arrest after a brief exchange with an officer who asked her if she was praying. 

“I might be praying in my head,” was her reply. 

Police had been alerted by those in the neighborhood who suspected she was praying in what Alliance Defending Freedom UK, which is representing Vaughan-Spruce, calls a "censorship zone." 

Birmingham has buffer zones around clinics to prevent individuals from “engaging in any act of approval or disapproval” about abortion through “verbal or written means, prayer or counseling,” according to CBN. 

"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. "Censorship zones purport to ban harassment, which is already illegal. Nobody should ever be subject to harassment."

"But what I did was the furthest thing from harmful – I was exercising my freedom of thought, my freedom of religion, inside the privacy of my own mind. Nobody should be criminalized for thinking and for praying, in a public space in the UK," she added. 

ADF UK Legal Counsel Jeremiah Igunnubole called the incident "deeply concerning" and a "watershed moment" for the country. 

"It is truly astonishing that the law has granted local authorities such wide and unaccountable discretion, that now even thoughts deemed 'wrong' can lead to a humiliating arrest and a criminal charge," Igunnubole said. 

"A mature democracy should be able to differentiate between criminal conduct and the peaceful exercise of constitutionally protected rights," added Igunnubole. "The recent increase in buffer zone legislation and orders is a watershed moment in our country. We must ask ourselves whether we are a genuinely democratic country committed to protecting the peaceful exercise of the right to freedom of speech. We are at serious risk of mindlessly sleepwalking into a society that accepts, normalizes, and even promotes the 'tyranny of the majority.'" 

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