Media Release 3 March 2023
A catholic priest and an middle aged women [pictured] were arrested in the United Kingdom in December 2022 for praying silently in a safe zone outside abortion clinics. This is a crime with the penalty on conviction of up to six months in prison.
The United Kingdom as a mature Parliamentary democracy has been traditionally a courageous defender of human rights, it should be able to differentiate between criminal conduct and the peaceful exercise of constitutionally protected rights.
Isabel Vaughan Spruce, co-director for 40 days for life in the UK, was questioned by police on a Sunday in Birmingham when the clinic was closed. She admitted that she might have been praying. Isabel was arrested, searched, questioned, photographed, finger printed and charged on four counts, with protesting and engaging in an act that is intimidating to service users. Standing alone was also deemed an intimidation. Isabel said that she was not protesting and was not holding any poster and had been praying silently and peacefully outside abortion facilities for twenty years.
Father Sean Gough, a priest of the Archdiocese of Birmingham was arrested outside an abortion clinic in a safe area in Wolverhampton when the clinic was closed. He was also searched, questioned, photographed, finger printed and charged with intimidation for praying silently and holding a sign that read, “praying for freedom of speech.” He was also charged with intimidation for displaying on his car a small sign that read, “unborn lives matter.”
Father Sean’s arrest is significant as he was protesting in support of free speech. When it becomes a crime to peacefully demonstrate in support of free speech it is time for the community to rise up in support of our God given human rights, our right to life, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom of communication and freedom of religion.
Fr Sean and Isobel were both charged before the court on 16th February, the charges were withdrawn due to insufficient evidence. The defendants could be tried in the future if further evidence became available. Both Fr Sean and Isobel are pursuing legal action to stop this action and to clear their names.
Right to Life fearlessly supports freedom of speech and the right to pray in a public place. If the state is allowed to censor and suppress prayer in a public place we can logically expect the state to ultimately suppress our right to exercise our freedom of religion.
Right to Life believes that what is happening in the United Kingdom should be a warning to what we can expect in the near future in New Zealand following the passing of safe area legislation. We believe that the pro-abortion movement and its supporters in Parliament consider peaceful citizens praying near abortion clinics intimidating and a criminal offence.
Right to Life is committed to actively oppose safe areas around abortion facilities and will vigorously defend the right of peaceful citizens to pray there for an end to abortion and the violent war against women and their precious unborn.
Right to Life New Zealand Inc.