A few weeks ago we reported that Isabel Vaughan-Spruce, a British public and pro-life activist, was acquitted by a court, which ruled that standing silently outside an abortion clinic is not a crime, even if one prays to oneself. However, on March 6, Isabel was arrested again for standing outside an abortion clinic and praying silently.
According to the Birmingham local government, protests or participation in any act of approval/disapproval or an attempted act of approval/disapproval regarding abortion-related issues by any means, including, but not limited to, graphic, oral or written means, prayer or counseling, are prohibited near abortion facilities.
Although the court ruled that silent prayer was not a form of protest, the police ignored the court order and arrested Isabel Vaughan-Spruce again.
Just the next day, on March 7, in London, the House of Commons, the lower house of the British Parliament, considered amendments to the Public Order Bill.
The bill, whose stated aim is to combat road closures and infrastructure blockades by radical eco-activists, was passed by the House of Commons in three readings in the fall. However, on the third reading, a controversial amendment was added to the bill, making any form of protest near abortion facilities a crime, including attempts to inform women seeking abortions of possible alternatives or to offer them assistance.
Then the House of Lords, the upper house of the British Parliament, also passed the bill in three readings, with some amendments. The paragraph concerning so-called buffer zones near abortion clinics was also amended slightly. Under British law, this means that a bill with amendments passed by the upper house goes back to the lower house, which must either approve them or make its own amendments and then submit them to the upper house–and so on, until both houses approve the same version of the bill.
And so, on March 7 in the House of Commons, some Conservative MPs tried to take their probably last opportunity to introduce an amendment to the bill declaring that silent prayer or consensual conversation with a woman undergoing an abortion could not be a crime. In other words, if a woman seeking an abortion is unsure of her decision and wants to reconsider it at the last minute, such an amendment would give her a chance to make an informed and conscious choice. Here it is worth noting that according to a study conducted last year, one in five British women who had an abortion did so under duress and wanted to keep her child.
Alas, this amendment was not adopted. The House of Commons voted 299:116 to prohibit people from silently praying or talking to each other consensually if it jeopardizes the smooth operation of the abortion pipeline.
The bill has now returned to the House of Lords, where amendments made by the lower house will be considered on March 14. Sooner or later both Houses will agree on the text and send it to the King for his signature, after which it will be possible to arrest people in Britain for mental prayer. Or, as it was called in Orwell’s famous novel, for thought crimes. After all, both houses of parliament have already reached an agreement on this issue.
Even now, however, as we see in the example of Isabel Vaughan-Spruce, in Britain it is not possible to arrest a person for silent prayer outside an abortion clinic, according to a court order, but if the police really want to, they still can do so.
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