Army veteran confronted for 'silently praying' outside abortion clinic

Moment Army veteran is confronted for ‘silently praying’ outside abortion clinic for his ‘dead son’ as he fights £100 council fine for breaching exclusion zone in latest free speech row

  • Adam Smith-Connor approached while ‘praying’ outside clinic in Bournemouth
  • Officer said he was in breach of terms of Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO) 
  • These can be introduced by officials to ban protests in vicinity of abortion clinics

This is the moment an Army veteran was questioned for ‘silently praying’ for his ‘dead son’ outside an abortion clinic as he fights a £100 council fine for breaching an order banning protests around the site. 

Adam Smith-Connor, a 49-year-old physiotherapist from Southampton, was approached by two council officers as he stood on the pavement outside the BPAS clinic on Ophir Road in Bournemouth. 

Mr Smith-Connor, who said his girlfriend had an abortion two decades ago, told the officers he was ‘praying for my son’, but one of them explained he was in breach of the terms of a Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO). 

Many councils have set up PSPOs around abortion clinics to stop women being harassed, with the one around the BPAS clinic banning protests including ‘prayer or counselling’. This has prompted a free speech row – with campaigners claiming the law amounts to ‘censorship’. 

Adam Smith-Connor, a 49-year-old physiotherapist from Southampton, was approached by two council officers as he stood on the pavement outside the BPAS clinic on Ophir Road in Bournemouth

The footage of Mr Smith-Connor, who served in the military for 20 years and has a daughter, 10, and a seven-year-old daughter, was filmed on November 24 last year and shared by ADF UK. 

ADF UK are a British branch of American the conservative Christian legal advocacy group Alliance Defending Freedom, who have campaigned and lobbied against the right to an abortion and against the decriminalisation of homsexuality in the US.

The group said it was now supporting him with challenging the £100 fine. 

He said: ’22 years ago I drove my ex-girlfriend to a facility and paid for her to have an abortion. It was a pivotal moment in my life. 

‘The consequences of my actions that day came back to grieve me years later, when I realised I had lost my son Jacob to an abortion I had paid for. 

‘Recently, I stood outside a similar facility and prayed to God for my son Jacob, for other babies who have lost their lives to abortion, for their grieving families, and for abortion clinic staff.’ 

ADF UK said Mr Smith-Connor had been ‘criminalised for his beliefs. 

Mr Smith-Connor, who said his girlfriend had an abortion two decades ago, told the officers he was ‘praying for my son’, but one of them explained he was in breach of the terms of a Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO)

The footage of Mr Smith-Connor, who served in the military for 20 years and has a daughter, 10, and a seven-year-old daughter, was filmed on November 24 last year and shared by ADF UK

The organisation is also representing a Catholic woman who was confronted by a police officer during a similar stunt outside a BPAS clinic in Birmingham last month. 

What are PSPOs and how do they stop protests around abortion centres?

Public Spaces Protection Orders (PSPOs) are designed to allow local councils to prevent anti-social behaviour. 

Councils were given the power to enforce them in 2014 through section 59 of the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act.

The authority lists the activity that is banned within a particular geographical area, with a £100 initial fine rising to £1,000 if it goes to court. 

MPs have also introduced buffer zones around abortion clinics following an amendment to the Public Order Bill. 

This makes it an offence to intimidate or harass anyone within 150 metres of the buildings.

Anyone found guilty of breaching the zone to intimidate, threaten or persuade women will face a fine or six months’ imprisonment, increasing to two years for repeat offences. 

The law change came out over concerns about councils being sued by anti-abortion campaigners challenging PSPOs. 

Isabel Vaughan-Spruce, director of anti-abortion group March for Life UK, was arrested for violating a PSCO after she admitted that she might have been praying silently while standing outside.

The West Midlands Police officer told the campaigner that he had to caution her and then asked her: ‘What are you here for today?’

‘Physically, I’m just standing here,’ Miss Vaughan-Spruce, from Malvern, Worcestershire, replied.

‘Why here of all places? I know you don’t live nearby,’ the officer asked.

She responded: ‘But this is an abortion centre.’

The officer said: ‘Okay, that’s why you’re stood here. Are you here as part of a protest? Are you praying?’

She denied she was protesting but when asked if she was praying she said: ‘I might be praying in my head, but not out loud.’

The officer then arrested her on suspicion of failing to comply with a public spaces protection order.

She is now due to appear at Birmingham Magistrates Court on February 2. 

It sparked a fierce debate, with ADF claiming she had been accused of a ‘thoughtcrime’ but others defending the need for restrictions around abortion centres to protect women from harassment.  

Retiree Nadine Billingham said abortion clinics has become ‘unsafe for women’.

She tweeted: ‘The area around abortion clinics has become very unsafe for women attending the clinics.

‘Making these areas protected public spaces has sadly become necessary due to the violence/harassment perpetrated by a few loonies. It must include everyone, even those praying silently.’

The organisation is also representing a Catholic woman who was confronted by a police officer during a similar stunt outside a BPAS clinic in Birmingham last month. Isabel Vaughan-Spruce was arrested and charged with violating a PSPO 

West Midlands Police said: ‘The PSPO creates a zone around a specific facility to protect women from harassment by any means if they are seeking a medical procedure or advice at an abortion clinic.’ 

MPs voted to introduce formal buffer zones around abortion clinics in October after Labour proposed an amendment to the Public Order Bill to make it an offence to intimidate or harass anyone within 150 metres of the buildings.

Anyone found guilty of breaching the zone to intimidate, threaten or persuade women will face a fine or six months’ imprisonment, increasing to two years for repeat offences.

The law change came out over concerns about councils being sued by anti-abortion campaigners challenging PSPOs.  

MailOnline has contacted Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council for comment.  

Source: Read Full Article

click fraud detection