Army veteran fined for praying near abortion clinic
An army veteran has been fined after praying silently for his deceased son near an abortion facility in Bournemouth.
Adam Smith-Connor was praying within a Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO) zone imposed around the clinic by the local council last October.
The PSPO criminalises the act and "attempted act" of "approval/disapproval, with respect to issues related to abortion services, by any means".
This includes "graphic, verbal or written means, prayer or counselling", and also covers the reading of scripture and making the sign of the cross.
According to the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF UK), Mr Smith-Connor received a letter from the council informing him that the fine had been issued based on his statement to community officers that he had been "praying for his son, who is deceased".
ADF UK is assisting Mr Smith-Connor in his challenge against the fine.
Jeremiah Igunnubole, legal counsel for the organisation, said that Mr Smith-Connor could now face prosecution "for holding thoughts, and lifting those thoughts to God in prayer, within a censorship zone".
"Nobody should be criminalised for what they believe – especially not when they express that belief silently, in the privacy of their own minds," he said.
He drew comparisons with the case of Isabel Vaughan-Spruce, co-CEO of March for Life UK, who was arrested in Birmingham last month after allegedly being told by police that she might have been praying silently near an abortion clinic.
Mr Igunnubole said, "The rapid proliferation of orders criminalising volunteers such as Adam and Isabel should be a wake up call to all those who value freedom of expression – even freedom of thought – no matter their views on abortion."
Reflecting on the penalty, Smith-Connor said: "Twenty-two 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 realized 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.
"I would never have imagined being in a position to risk a criminal record for praying silently. In the past, I assisted with abortions in hospital as part of my army medical training, but now I pray for those who perform abortions because I realise how harmful abortion is to women and families, and that every single human life is valuable – no matter how small.
"Most of all, I'm moved to pray because of what happened to my son, Jacob."