Isabel Vaughan-Spruce, a 45-year-old woman, was arrested as she silently prayed outside the office of a closed abortion seller in Birmingham England in early December. She is also the director of March for Life UK. Vaughan-Spruce was searched by police officers, detained and taken to a police station, locked in a cell and later charged on four counts of violating local law. She must appear in a Magistrate’s court on February 2, 2023, to face the charges brough against her.
Her crime? Apparently thinking the wrong thoughts in the wrong place.
Vaughan-Spruce told a journalist what happened to her while being interrogated at the police station, “They asked me what I was praying about. They wanted to actually know the thoughts in my head.” She added, “Thought crime is seeming to become a real thing in the U.K. now, sadly.”
You can see the arrest take place here,
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
Vaughan-Spruce was not charged with harassing anyone or limiting their movement. She approached no one. No one was around. She is not being charged for saying anything, in as much as a whisper. Neither law enforcement officials nor the owners of the abortion business are charging any of this. Instead, she was arrested and charged for standing still, by herself, merely thinking pro-life thoughts. And doing so in the vicinity of an abortion seller’s office that was closed for business at the time. That was her “crime.” And she must now legally defend herself in court for doing so.
Mary Harrington, a British social commentator, has correctly observed,
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.
What Harrrington is referencing are new laws called Public Space Protection Orders (PSPOs) being passed in England. They were originally meant to protect the public from “anti-social behaviour,” but they have recently been used to shield abortion sellers from facing any sort of public disapproval, even if that means simply standing near the facility outside of business hours and praying silently.
The Catholic News Agency reports that a national PSPO currently under debate in the U.K. Parliament would prevent people from “influencing,” “advising,” “persuading,” “informing,” “occupying space,” or even “expressing opinion” near an abortion clinic. Violators could receive up to two years in prison.
Jeremiah Igunnubole, Legal Counsel for ADF UK, rightly contends “A mature democracy should be able to differentiate between criminal conduct and the peaceful exercise of constitutionally protected rights.” Ingunnubole adds, “Isabel, a woman of good character, and who has tirelessly served her community by providing charitable assistance to vulnerable women and children, has been treated no better than a violent criminal.” He concludes, “The recent increase in buffer zone legislation and orders is a watershed moment in our country.”
Mary Harrington points out a very critical angle on this story and an important inflection point for our culture. She says “Abortion centres are the new sacred space” in society now, enjoying increasing protection from wholly peaceful people who merely disapprove of their ghastly work. Even if they are simply doing so in the quietness of their own minds.
By contrast, Vaughan-Spruce’s arrest makes it clear that the zone surrounding an abortion centre is treated as sacred in a way that’s evidently no longer meaningfully the case (at least as far as the European court is concerned) of a church.
Harrington is precisely correct.
This is the way the belief system of the New Left is now treated. Their ideological orthodoxy is more pure and fundamentally sacred than even the right to think your own private thoughts in public.
Jordan Peterson made a very important comment recently that sounds dramatic at first blush. But this incident proves him right. He said threats to free speech are indeed threats to free thought. The two go together like peas and carrots. To be prevented from saying something is the first step toward punishing people for having thoughts the New Left does not agree with.
And this is precisely what has happened to the clearly tender, and wholly harmless Isabel Vaughan-Spruce. She must be punished because her private thoughts challenge the “sacred” status of abortion. The cock-sure moralizing of the New Left is increasingly willing to not only trod all over the free speech of any ideological opponent but will now prosecute their very private thoughts in court.
This is extremely scary territory that must be called out as wholly anti-democratic and a dramatic desecration of even the most fundamental ideals of classic Liberalism itself.