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MP decries arrest of woman arrested who prayed silently near abortion clinic

26 January 2023
Isabel Vaughan-Spruce

An MP has decried the arrest of a woman who prayed silently near an abortion clinic, and called for religious liberty to be protected in the UK.

Speaking at Prime Minister's Questions this week, DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson challenged Rishi Sunak on the case of pro-life advocate Isabel Vaughan-Spruce.

Vaughan-Spruce, Director of March for Life UK, was arrested for breaching a buffer zone policy in Birmingham that prohibits protests near abortion clinics.

Mr Donaldson said: “Isabel Vaughan-Spruce was praying silently outside an abortion clinic in Birmingham when she was arrested and questioned... not about her written or spoken words but her thoughts.”

He asked if, in light of the case, the UK Government would “commit to examine the laws of the United Kingdom to ensure that this country remains a beacon for freedom of religion or belief”.

Rishi Sunak said: "Of course we believe in freedom of religious expression and belief in this country. We also are balancing that with the rights of the women to seek legal and safe abortions".

“That is currently being discussed in this parliament. These matters are always matters of free vote and I know members will treat them with the sensitivity they deserve."

Buffer zones have been approved in certain local authority areas of England but plans are being discussed to introduce a blanket ban across England and Wales.

Plans for a national ban on pro-life advocacy outside abortion clinics are also being considered in Scotland, in legislation introduced by the Scottish Greens.

Last year, a campaign group called Compassion Scotland was launched to oppose the buffer zones bill. Spokeswoman Hannah McNicol told The Guardian:

“Women seek abortions for many reasons and can often be under immense pressure to do so – whether that be financial and employment pressures or coercion from a partner or family member".

"The peaceful presence of volunteers signposting practical support and counsel has been a lifeline in the past to women who feel they have no choice but an abortion.”

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