Two British citizens face criminal penalties for violating buffer zones.
Prayer outside abortion facilities is drawing prosecution in multiple cases across the UK.
Adam Smith-Connor prayed silently on a public street in Bournemouth, England, earlier this month, his back to an abortion clinic. When community safety officers asked what he was doing, he told them he was “praying for [his] son, who is deceased.”
The officers expressed condolences but then said Smith-Connor, a 49-year-old physical therapist and British army veteran, was “in breach” of a Public Space Protection Order (PSPO), according to a video of the incident. Later he was fined.
The PSPO at issue is a local ordinance enacted in October 2022 establishing a “safe zone” comprising multiple city blocks surrounding the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) abortion clinic. The ordinance prohibits protesting “whether by yourself or with others,” and it defines protesting to include prayer.
The deceased son Smith-Connor referenced to the officers was aborted nearly three decades ago, he explained in a release from Alliance Defending Freedom International (ADFI), a conservative legal group supporting him. Smith-Connor paid for the abortion but now regrets it and believes the procedure harms babies, women, and families.
“I would never have imagined being in a position to risk a criminal record for praying silently,” Smith-Connor said.
Smith-Connor isn’t the only UK resident to be punished recently for silent prayer outside an abortion clinic. Pro-life activist Isabel Vaughan-Spruce was arrested in Birmingham in December for violating a similar PSPO. When asked by authorities what she was doing near an abortion facility, she replied that she might have been praying. She was asked …