Isabel Vaughan-Spruce: "The damage abortion inflicts on women alone should be enough to make us pro-life".

Isabel Vaughan-Spruce, the woman who was arrested in Birmingham for "praying in her mind" in front of an abortion clinic has spoken to Omnes about this moment and about the work in favor of women and life that she has been doing for years in the United Kingdom.

Maria José Atienza-February 23, 2023-Reading time: 7 minutes

Photo: Isabel Vaughan-Spruce, OSV News photo/Simon Caldwell

As if it were a science fiction movie, Isabel Vaughan-Spruce suffered, last December, an arrest for "a thought".

On December 6, Isabel, Co-director of the March for Life in the United Kingdom and known for her work on behalf of women who decide to go ahead with their pregnancies, was in a collected attitude in front of an abortion clinic in Birmingham. A few minutes later she was arrested on "suspicion" that the woman was "mentally praying".

Two months later, the court dropped the charges against Isabel Vaughan-Spruce who, in this interview she gave to Omnes, describes the moment as surreal.

Vaughan-Spruce, has seen "the terrible harm abortion does to men and women" and calls for the right of women to know "alternatives to abortion" and, of all, to an exercise of basic freedoms such as the right to pray.

How did you experience your arrest and the process until the charges were dropped?

- I liken this experience (being arrested for praying silently near the abortion centre) to my very first experience outside an abortion centre. I remember around 20 years ago attending a vigil outside an abortion centre in Birmingham for the first time. The abortion centre I prayed outside on that occasion performed around 10,000 abortions per year.

It was a surreal experience standing there looking at this large building in a beautiful street, positioned next to some incredibly expensive privately owned houses and to know that every year 10,000 children were having their lives intentionally ended in this building. Yet despite the horror of the reality I felt a sense of peace – clearly, not at the situation, but within myself, that I was where I should be.

Similarly, when I was arrested, it felt surreal - I hadn’t been holding posters, offering leaflets, I hadn’t opened my mouth to speak to anyone, the abortion centre wasn’t even open, when the police asked me if I was praying, I had only said ‘I might be praying silently’ and yet I was being arrested for what I ‘might’ be thinking.

As I stood there being searched on a public street, knowing I was being taken away for questioning, it seemed totally surreal but I have to admit I felt at peace within myself knowing that was where I should be.

Have we reached a system of coercion of personal freedoms that attempts to criminalize even "a thought"?

- For my silent prayers I was charged with ‘Engaging in an act intimidating to service users’. The abortion centre was closed when I was there so there were no service users – yet I was arrested, searched, locked in a police cell, interviewed under caution, released on bail and subsequently charged on four counts.

It does rather beg the question ‘Who is intimidating who?’ How could my private thoughts, which weren’t being manifested in anyway eg I wasn’t holding rosary beads or carrying a bible etc possibly be intimidating to anyone, least of all a group of people who weren’t even there.

Our most basic freedoms are being labelled as crimes. This should be really concerning for everyone, whichever side of the abortion debate they are on.

If we want to talk about women's rights, what about their right to be presented with alternatives to abortion and their right to know how abortion may actually affect them in the long run?

Isabel Vaughan-Spruce

What would you say to those who "sell" abortion as a "woman's right"?

- The damage abortion inflicts on women alone should be enough to make us pro-life. Many abortion supporters mistakenly think that those who oppose abortion do so solely because they care about the rights of the preborn child.

Clearly we do care, very much, about the rights of the preborn child but how can it possibly be a solution to a woman’s difficulties or anxieties during pregnancy to assist her in taking the life of her child. This can never be a solution. abortion doesn’t solve problems, it creates them.

I work very closely with the post-abortive organisation Rachel's Vineyardwhich does amazing work helping anyone hurt by abortion, directly or indirectly, to find healing.

I have seen the terrible damage to women (and men) from abortion; physically, mentally, emotionally, psychologically and spiritually. Women have a right to know this. If we want to talk about women’s rights then what about their right to have alternatives to abortion presented to them and their right to know how the abortion may really affect them long term?

In Spain, for example, a law has just been passed in which women are not informed of the aids for having a child and the "decision period" has been eliminated. Do those who seek abortions really have nothing to think about?

- It is a common misconception that those entering abortion centres have already made up their minds.

I have met so many women who were clearly in two minds as to what they should do. Many have stated that even up to the last minute they were ‘looking for a sign’ as to whether to keep their child or not.

Those who have ‘made up their minds’ have often done so based on limited options being presented to them.

I often say to women that there is a reason pregnancy lasts 9 months – it takes a long time to get used to the idea of what is happening, even with a planned and much wanted pregnancy.

We all need time to get our minds around life changing situations such as pregnancy – and yet women often make a life changing decision, abortionin a panicked rush. This is not pro-woman.

Once you get involved in pro-life work, you realize that even the smallest efforts can have a big impact.

Isabel Vaughan-Spruce

Some people think "the battle is lost", but do they think there is nothing we can do?

- I find that those who think this are sometimes those who are not involved in pro-life work. It is tempting to look at a problem from the outside and just see the magnitude of the difficulties. Once you get stuck in to pro-life work you realise even the smallest efforts can have huge impact, like the time a woman walked out of an abortion centre and said to the person standing outside who had not even spoken to them ‘I have decided to keep my baby because I could feel you praying for me’ or the young couple who were going to have an abortion and stopped when they saw someone outside, they said ‘We had been praying God would send an angel to stop us going through with this, you are that angel’ or the girl who told us her parents had been heading to the abortion centre to abort her sibling but had seen someone praying outside which had prompted them to have one last conversation in which they decided that they could manage another child and so they turned their car back round again and drove away.

An abortion worker once came out of the centre and scoffed at what I was doing, dismissing those who have changed their minds and telling me of how many people HADN’T accepted my help. I reminded her that for me it’s not about numbers but individuals. If we help one woman to recognise the value of her child and provide her with the support she needs to continue her pregnancy (and beyond) then the ripple effect of that is incalculable.

The battle is most certainly not lost, in fact the battle has been won – we just need to decide which side we are on, the side of life or death?

Priest Sean Gough with Isabel Vaughan-Spruce, after being acquitted of charges of "coercing abortion clinic clients ©OSV News photo/Simon Caldwell

Do we have the challenge of educating young people in the fundamental dignity of life?

- This is a huge task but one we need to embrace. Parents need to remember they are the primary educators of their children and to be aware of what their children may be being taught elsewhere, outside the home or even in the home via tv and social media etc.

We can’t be naïve, we must be vigilant.

A child naturally rejects abortion, the default position is to be pro-life – abortion has to be taught but those who support abortion have done a ‘good’ job of teaching this.

Those who oppose abortion have said this is not a man’s issue and silenced men – we need strong men who are willing to face the ridicule or anger of others and still speak up in truth and charity.

Others have said this is not something for the Church to speak about and too many in the Church have stayed silent for fear of being mocked. Christ Himself was mocked and we should not be afraid to tread in His steps. We need a Church which recognises its role in educating on this most fundamental issue.

What can we do to help women "before" they get to the abortion clinic?

- Most of us are familiar with the Biblical commandments: love your neighbour as yourself. It’s the second part of it I want to look at – ‘as yourself’.

The problem I see nowadays is a lot of people who don’t really love themselves. How can we expect women to love the preborn child inside them if they don’t even love themselves? If they love their neighbour as they love themselves then it’ll be a very weak, conditional kind of love because that’s the value they place on their own existence.

If a woman only feels loved, only feels worth something because of her boyfriend and that boyfriend is threatening to walk away if she keeps the baby – guess what the woman is likely to choose? If a woman feels of value because of her career and her baby could jeopardise that career – guess what that woman is likely to choose?

There are many people who have never experienced real love (I’m not talking about anything necessarily romantic but a selfless love that isn’t trying to get something back but just really cares and recognises someone’s value).

Approximately one in four women in my country have an abortion and an awful lot more have considered it, some are considering it right now - chances are at some point you’ve been sat next to one of them on the bus, been served by one of them in a shop, commented on one of their social media posts or maybe it’s your own family member. Try and make sure that interaction leaves them knowing something of their true value

And men – don’t be afraid to compliment women – your words have power if used in the right way so I don’t mean inappropriate flirting with women and acting creepy but genuine words of affirmation to women - whether it’s your female friend, sister or work colleague, let her know she’s a good listener, or that she has a generous heart or that she gives such sound advice or that she’s great company - we all want to feel valued – we all want to feel loved right? And the woman who really needs to hear that isn’t going to have it written on her forehead.

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