By Jonathon Van Maren
Just before the Christmas holidays, a religious story out of the United Kingdom went viral. A 45-year-old Malvern woman named Isabel Vaughan-Spruce was arrested in Birmingham in what is referred to as an “exclusion zone” near an abortion clinic on suspicion of praying. Not because she praying with hands raised or mumbling Our Fathers or fingering beads, mind you—but because she may have been praying in her head. The scene was surreal.
A young police officer approached and asked Isabel why she was standing on the sidewalk; she affirmed that it was because an abortion clinic was nearby but stated that she was not protesting. The exclusion zones had been voted into effect in October to prevent “harassment”; this woman was clearly engaged in nothing of the sort, and was in fact not engaging with anyone at all. The officer then asked her: “Are you praying?”
“I might be praying in my head,” she replied. “But not out loud.” In that case, the policeman informed her, she was under arrest on the suspicion that she was, in fact, praying in her head—the arrest was necessary, he noted, to protect vulnerable women.
Police in the UK arrest a woman for silently praying:
"Are you praying?"
"I might be praying in my head." pic.twitter.com/7Q8UnKmfa1
— Mary Margaret Olohan (@MaryMargOlohan) December 22, 2022
As Mary Harrington put it in an Unherd column titled “Abortion centres are the new sacred space”: “Britain is now a country with designated zones where being suspected of thinking proscribed thoughts will attract the attention of police, even if you’re not acting on those thoughts in any way.” Our new blasphemy laws target those who dare to raise their voices—or even silently pray—near the temples where the sexual revolution’s bloody sacraments are carried out. Prayer is an arrestable offence. Child sacrifice is not.
Many conservatives expressed shock at the arrest, but the scene was a familiar one for pro-lifers around the world. In Canada, exclusion zones are referred to as “bubble zones,” and anyone—even someone standing and silently praying—inside those boundaries is subject to arrest and steep fines. Abortion activists claim these rules are necessary due to “harassment,” but for more than a decade, all violence has been perpetrated by abortion supporters against pro-lifers rather than the other way round.
That doesn’t stop them from lying, of course—when you’ve got red hands, what’s a white lie? In the U.S., the U.K., the Netherlands, and elsewhere, abortion activists claim that the threat of violence comes not from those reducing tiny humans to pulp inside clinics, but those praying peacefully outside. I vividly remember being outside one clinic—just outside the bubble zone boundaries—as a pregnant woman, her belly swollen by the baby inside her, entered, emerging several hours later limping, deflated, and empty. It wasn’t illegal for her to have her child aborted. It was illegal for us to offer her alternatives–or even pray for her within her line of vision.
Mary Harrington is right: Abortion clinics are now considered sacred. But when prayer is illegal, civil disobedience becomes a duty—and when child sacrifice becomes a sacrament, protest becomes an obligation.