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World News

Woman arrested for silent prayer outside abortion clinic warns Scottish Gov about buffer zones

by Heather Preston

A Christian woman arrested and charged with “intimidation” after silently praying outside of an abortion clinic has spoken out against proposed legislation to enforce buffer zones in Scotland.

Isabel Vaughan-Spruce was arrested in December following complaints about her presence outside of a closed clinic in Birmingham – where praying and any behaviour considered intimidating to women using abortion services has been banned due to a Public Space Protection Order, also known as a buffer zone.

Vaughan-Spruce is fighting to prevent similar legislation being introduced in Scotland.

It comes after Green MSP, Gillian Mackay launched a Bill to enforce censorships outside of Scottish abortion clinics which would prevent prayer, and any form of “influencing” towards women using the facilities.

Vaughan-Spruce warns that the legislation could lead to more people being arrested for simply offering help, or praying in their heads.

Speaking at a roundtable discussion with the Scottish Government on Monday, Vaughan-Spruce said it was “essential that the government protect freedom of expression and of thought for the people of Scotland”.

“As a charitable volunteer, I strongly condemn the harassment of women in vulnerable situations,” she said.

“This is already illegal in Scotland – but the new proposals to install censorial zones around abortion facilities criminalise those who offer financial or practical charitable help outside abortion facilities – or, simply praying silently and imperceptibly inside our minds”.

Gillian McKay MSP, and two members of the Scottish Government’s “Abortion Policy Team” were present at the roundtable at St Andrews House.

Two summits have been held for campaigners in support of the buffer zones while one group are due to meet with Nicola Sturgeon again later this month.

Christian legal advocacy group ADF attended Monday’s pro-life discussion.

Lois McLatchie from ADF UK raised concerns over recent arrests and penalties given to people in England who have silently prayed within censorial buffer zones.

“Nobody should be arrested simply for what they are thinking,” she said.

“Unfortunately, the Bill currently before the Scottish Parliament would lead to similar instances as have recently come to light in Birmingham and Bournemouth, where 'censorship zones' have led to the arrest of individuals who are simply, peacefully, praying silently in their heads.

“We stand firmly in condemnation of harassment against women in any circumstances. Fortunately, in Scotland, harassment is already illegal. We must be clear, then, about the real impact of the 'censorship zones' legislation as drafted in Scotland – it would go far beyond banning already-illegal harassment, and instead see it made illegal to participate in good and lawful activities, like peacefully praying, or offering leaflets about charitable help available to women who might like to consider other options,” she continued.

The Scottish government has announced support for the Bill. It would ban any form of “influencing” within 150m of an abortion facility.

An extra 100m ban would be available to be granted upon request to expand the boundary of the buffer zone.






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