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Volunteer arrested for PRAYING testifies about abortion “censorship zone” legislation at Scot Gov roundtable

  • Isabel Vaughan-Spruce was arrested and charged after admitting she “might be” praying in her head near a CLOSED abortion facility 
  • Scot Gov have backed proposals to roll out “censorship zones” which would ban prayer and offers of charitable help near all abortion facilities in Scotland
  • Gov held modest roundtable in St Andrew’s House, 30 Jan, to hear concerns about legislation – 7 months after Sturgeon’s first “summit” for pro-buffer zones campaigners

EDINBURGH (30th January 2023) – The woman arrested and charged with “intimidation” after she prayed silently near a closed abortion facility has asked the Scottish government to protect freedom of expression and freedom of thought. 

The video of Isabel Vaughan-Spruce’s arrest went viral after she was searched, arrested and criminally charged for praying in a “censorship zone”, instituted by local authorities in Birmingham through a “Public Space Protection Order”.

Vaughan-Spruce warned that Gillian Mackay MSP’s bill to introduce similar censorship zones across the country could lead to more people being arrested for simply offering help, or even praying inside their own heads. 

“It’s 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. 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, like I was doing when I was arrested – simply praying silently and imperceptibly inside our minds,” commented Isabel Vaughan-Spruce, who was arrested for silently praying outside a closed abortion facility in Birmingham.  

Government host modest roundtable for stakeholders with concerns over “buffer zones” 

After hosting two major “summits” in Edinburgh this Summer exclusively for activists campaigning to install censorial “buffer zones” around Scottish abortion facilities, the Scottish government invited pro-life representatives to voice their concerns over a modest roundtable discussion at St Andrews House today. 

The event lasted 1 hour and was attended by Gillian McKay MSP, and two members of the Scottish Government’s “Abortion Policy Team”. By contrast, the fanfare summit for pro-”buffer zones” activists in June was hosted by the First Minister herself, and Women’s Health Minister Maree Todd attended both events in June and August. 

A pro-“buffer zones” campaign group have announced they will personally meet with Nicola Sturgeon once again later this month. 

ADF UK’s Lois McLatchie participated in today’s pro-life roundtable, raising concerns regarding recent arrests and penalties given in England for people merely praying, inside their heads, within the censorial “buffer zones”. 

“Nobody should be arrested simply for what they are thinking. 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,” said Lois McLatchie, communications officer for ADF UK. 

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. 

 Censorship concerns in overreaching Bill 

The Scottish government has announced support for the Bill to introduce censorial zones around abortion facilities in Scotland, introduced by Green Party MSP Gillian McKay. 

The bill 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. 

The Scottish government made it clear at the Supreme Court hearing in July that they would include prayer within the scope of “influencing” in their legislation – the Lord Advocate suggested that silent prayer could cause “psychological damage”. 

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