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Second bystander ensnared by English ban on prayer outside abortion clinics

Adam Smith-Connor was fined for “praying for [his] son, who is deceased” near an abortion facility in Bournemouth, England. / ADF UK

Denver, Colo., Jan 22, 2023 / 05:00 am (CNA).

Amid continuing controversy over strict limits on behavior outside abortion clinics in some English cities, a man faces a fine for praying silently outside one clinic in memory of his dead son.

“I would never have imagined being in a position to risk a criminal record for praying silently,” Adam Smith-Connor said, according to the legal group supporting him, Alliance Defending Freedom UK.

Smith-Connor had approached a British Pregnancy Advisory Service abortion facility in Bournemouth, in the southwest English county of Dorset. He intended to pray for his unborn son, who had died in an abortion he helped procure at a similar facility more than two decades ago.

Smith-Connor stood silently with his back to the clinic to respect the privacy of staff and visitors, according to Alliance Defending Freedom UK. Community safety officers inquired about what he was doing, and Smith-Connor replied: “Praying for my son, who is deceased.”

His Nov. 24, 2022, encounter with the officers was recorded on his phone.

“I’m sorry for your loss,” one officer replied. “But ultimately, I have to go along with the guidelines of the Public Space Protection Order, to say that we are in the belief that therefore you are in breach of clause 4a, which says about prayer, and also acts of disapproval …”

“I’m just standing praying,” Smith-Connor said.

“I do understand that. But the (protection order) is in place for a reason and we have to follow through on those regulations,” the officer replied.

A protection order is intended to stop anti-social behavior. The protection order for the abortion clinic has been in force since Oct. 13, 2022, and will remain in place for three years.

As part of the order, the Council of Bournemouth, Christchurch, and Poole has drawn red lines around an abortion provider and designated the area a “safe zone.” Anyone caught blessing themselves with the sign of the cross, reciting Scripture, or sprinkling holy water behind these red lines can be fined £100 (about $113) or risk a court conviction. The order bars engaging in an act or an attempted act of approval or disapproval of abortion services.

Smith-Connor faces a fine based on his statement that he was praying for his deceased son. A legal team with the support of Alliance Defending Freedom UK is challenging the fine.

Jeremiah Igunnubole, legal counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom UK, objected to the action against Smith-Connor.

“Nobody should be criminalized for what they believe — especially not when they express that belief silently, in the privacy of their own minds,” Igunnubole said.

The attorney compared the case to that of Isabel Vaughan-Spruce, who was arrested in Birmingham Dec. 6, 2022, for standing still and praying silently outside an abortion facility, which was closed at the time. Vaughan-Spruce, 45, faces four counts of violating that city’s protection order.

Like her, Igunnubole said, O’Connor-Smith “could now face prosecution for holding thoughts, and lifting those thoughts to God in prayer, within a censorship zone. The rapid proliferation of orders criminalizing 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.”

Grieving an aborted son

Smith-Connor said he stood outside the clinic due to his own personal experience with abortion.

“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,” he said. “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.”

He said he “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.”

“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 realize how harmful abortion is to women and families and that every single human life is valuable — no matter how small,” he said. “Most of all, I’m moved to pray because of what happened to my son, Jacob.”

Legislators in the U.K. Parliament have introduced a proposal to create similar zones near abortion clinics across England and Wales.

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  1. If I were in GB, I’d organize protest against an unjust law and entitle it, “One Arrest Per Day.” I’d make sure the jails would be increasingly populated by praying protesters until this evil law was rescinded.

  2. The UK is a disgrace. Police officers who abduct, murder and rape go undetected despite warning signs. Pray silently to save a life and they respond. Say a nasty tweet and the force will be with you. One day everyone will look back and be incredulous how these times were acceptable.

  3. This is common practice in Canada. You cannot loiter within 200 meters of an abortuary. I am ashamed of Canada and its culture of death.

  4. I am so sorry to observe that the Brits have become increasingly unhinged in this area, with a resultant loss of freedom of speech, assembly and religion. Why, yes, lets not just arrest folks for what they say and do but also for what they THINK!!! Disgusting. They closed down churches during covid and kept them closed long after the need was passed. They fully supported transgender surgeries etc for underage children, up until a recent clinic closure. They have tip-toed around the violent grooming actions against under-age girl perpetrated by Muslim immigrants.God forbid you make any anti-immigrant observations, even if proven TRUE. The patients are running the asylums there now. It is heartbreaking to see the oldest leading nation of western civilization and thought come to this pass. Brits can expect to lose more and more freedoms unless they wake up.

    • I read recently on the BBC’s site that a Scottish grandmother with asthma discovered she’d been given a “Do Not Resuscitate” status without her knowledge nor consent. She suffered from asthma which made her prone to respiratory infections, but she was not terminally ill nor greatly advanced in age. She had a daughter & several grandchildren she was looking forward to spending time with. Much to live for.
      Per the article the DNR designation is completely up to the healthcare professionals. It’s not negotiable with patients or their families & doesn’t require their permission or being made known to them.
      I can’t presume anything for sure from the article, but I have a feeling from the names & photos of the family that they’re likely Catholic working-class folk of Irish origin. Not amongst the Scottish elite.
      When you hear about the NHS & the good it’s done there’s also a dark side. Just as there is in most healthcare systems.

  5. The first thing to focus on is the long journey by which the political and legal powers have emancipated themselves from the contents and placed themselves on a level of “neutrality” with respect to them. This is the long process of secularization of our legal civilization that Carl Schmitt and Wolfgang Bökenförde have well described.
    Carl Schmitt illustrated the legal-political perspective of Thomas Hobbes and how it is the basis of every form of “legal positivism”.
    Leviathan is like a God on earth, given its functional artificiality it is a machine, and since Descartes had said that man is an “intellect in a machine”, Hobbes’ Leviathan is the great man who coincides with the great car.
    If the State is “magnun artificium,” then it is a technical-neutral instrument whose value lies in being a good machine independent of any content of political ends or beliefs and acquires neutrality with respect to the values and truth proper to an instrument technician.
    With the State-machine of Hobbes the “neutrality” is lucidly and tragically founded, according to which the “State has its order within itself and not outside itself”. It can demand unconditional obedience and if today the State does not allow conscientious objection it is because the Leviathan cannot admit a “right of resistance”, of which conscientious objection is an expression.
    The majority “will never commit injustice, but will transform every action into law and legality”. But, this is precisely the worst tyranny. That of modern liberal, constitutional, bourgeois democracies: the rule of law.

      • Yes. Böckenförde thinks that at a certain point, the secularized state could decide to live as if this corrosion of the nonnegotiable principles had not occurred. This means that the breakdown of the unavailable at a certain point, it is not known for what reason, stops and a system of freedom is created which is also favorable to Christianity. But the postmodern scenography denies all of this: today the anti-life legislation wants to reshape human nature and annul God’s presence in the world. In secularization, there is therefore a coherent and unstoppable soul which, tends towards the final solution. The phase of “neutrality” was a prelude to the next phase of the systematization and institutionalization of evil. At first, political thought dispenses with God, but then fights against Him to eliminate Him; at first, it dispenses with nature, but then fights against it to eliminate and reshape it. Positivism, including most moral positivism an legal positivism, Kelsen for example, is commonly held to be an example of neutrality. On the other hand, when reason, in this case, juridical reason, detaches itself from religion, it cannot fail to become anti-religious. Both Augusto Del Noce and Cornelio Fabro, two great Italian thinkers, had warned us against this possible misunderstanding, inviting us not to fall into the trap.

  6. A recent celebrant on the EWTN mass commented that when Damar Hamlin collapsed, (paraphrasing) prayer was mentioned/needed and requested repeatedly, yet there always seems to be controversy and sometimes fines in the NFL.

  7. On the other hand, violence against abortion clinics is well documented, as is harassment of persons. It’s a bad look for the political pro-life movement and seems counter-productive if conversion of heart is the goal here.

    It’s a Matthew 6:5-6 moment. Pray somewhere private, then perform some hidden act of charity.

    • “Pray somewhere private, then perform some hidden act of charity.”

      Because that worked so well for the civil rights movement…

      God bless this British gentleman. His arrest & comments have done more to shed a light on the barbarism of feticide than anything else recently in the UK.

      • The difference is that the mainstream civil rights movement in the US adopted non-violence. That has not been the case for the pro-life movement. I recall in the mid-90s Cardinal Law advised a ban:

        It is always a matter of prudence, and given the violent tendencies in our culture, often from the Right, there may be better choices afoot. The topic of the civil rights movement is otherwise unhelpful to the discussion.

        • I would appreciate specifics on your accusation of violence against abortion clinics. Shouting at people from across the street may not be pleasant but in todays world, when senators kneel in support of burning and looting riots, it does not qualify as violence. What is happening in Britain to people silently praying is unconscionable and morally reprehensible. Clearly, those who ACTUALLY appear to be the subject of attack are pro-life center ( and churches) , which do nothing except provide support to pregnant women, hardly a nefarious activity. The murder of babies on the other hand, does tend to disturb people who actually have a sense of morality or conscience. I also find disturbing so=called Catholics who support the Pro-abortion democrats. How do such people support a party whose primary purpose is to ensure that women can murder their children???? Dem’s stand on abortion has morphed from “rare and safe” to “anytime, anyplace, even after birth, honey!! Party on!!” The damage done and threats made by the rabid pro-abortion “Jane’s Revenge” group comes to mind.Its a small comfort to think that such people likely have no interest in breeding. Those perpetrators remain unidentified, in yet another case of ineptitude by the Dem controlled FBI.

          • Yes, we have whataboutism.

            A BBC survey in 2015 found an increase in “American style” protesting. If, LJ, you have doubts about violence and the threats of violence, I suggest you read about it. Cardinal Law certainly considered it in 1995.

            As a pro-life Catholic I object to bad behavior. It reflects badly on the Church and the effort to people who sit on the abortion fence.

            The conspiracy theories do us little good. Silly stuff: space lasers, pizza parties, Republicans dressing in drag. Oh wait, that last one was confessed.

        • Mr Todd,
          Perhaps you could clarify how the civil rights and prolife movements don’t have intrinsic connecting threads both in human rights intention and non violence?
          I hope the gentleman in this article inspires others to publicly witness in the same way. That’s how it worked for civil rights.

          • Sure. By now, almost three generations have passed. Bad actors in the pro-life movement have sullied the effort. Some of them support laws and policies that actively discourages women from having children. Some of them have stances that aren’t pro-life–in favor of the death penalty, or the ill treatment of prisoners or refugees.

            The pro-life protesters march, as civil rights advocates did.

            The largest difference between them is significant. Clinic demonstrators intimidate women, those at the very bottom of the abortion food chain. The operators are inside, safe and insulated. The civil rights movement bothered–and still bothers–the powerful: police, government officials, business leaders. The houses those marches passed? Even if they were inclined to racism, they could always close their windows, draw the curtains, and be at their business.

            I support the March for Life and encourage people to go. As Cardinal Law suggested in 1995, clinic protesting is a prudential choice. It’s not bad. But it’s not the best. I’ve never heard of pro-lifers protesting pharmaceutical companies for producing abortion drugs, or medical instrument makers for their contributions. They are the ones making money off the misfortune of women. Why not pick on and picket them? And all those made-in-China goods some pro-life people buy? The Chinese government actively coerces and forces women to have abortions. Why buy Chinese made goods, even if they are cheap? Why not protest at the Chinese embassy for their government’s culture of death?

            Frankly, I think the political pro-life movement is spent. Y’all need new ideas. Creativity. Intimidating women, especially by large-ish men? Bad look.

        • Cd Law asked (one of numerous errors of governance by him) for a moratorium on NON VIOLENT pro-life demonstrations for fear that PRO-ABORTIONISTS will be violent to THEM. The exact opposite of your preposterous claim that mainstream pro-lifers endorse violence.
          The 1960s Civil Rights movement had proportionately far more violence than the pro life movement has ever had. Never heard of Malcolm X?

        • Given that Card. Law received death threats because of his work within the civil rights movement, the issue is relevant.

          Card. Law did not condemn prayer or prayerful protest of abortion. He called for a prudential moratorium in the immediate aftermath of the fatal shooting of two abortion workers by a mental wacko who later killed himself in prison…this wack-job was not ‘prolife.’

    • How does that violence compare to the violent deaths suffered by the victims of abortion? One comparison? One group communicates its status as ‘victims.’

    • Um, Todd.

      Are you sure you’re commenting on the right article here?

      By definition, silent prayer is “private,” wherever it is you’re praying. It’s *silent* prayer, you see?

      And where do you see violence or harassment mentioned in reference to those apprehended? They were engaged in *silent* prayer!

      Finally, is “conversion of hearts” the goal here, or is it a needless diversion?

      Isn’t the goal really ending the most horrific crime against humanity ever conceived, the killing of one Billion-plus innocent children worldwide over the past half century?

      How can you possibly object to two people engaging in silent prayer to combat that?

      Or do you think it’s overreacting?


    • Please cite all the instances of pro-life supporters doing violence against abortuaries in the past 5 years, even 25 years. You won’t because you can’t. Sorry, you lose.

      • Well, no, I’m not going to do the work for people who close their eyes, plug their ears, and repeat their mantra, nyah, nyah, nyah. I will cite a celebrity, Frank Pavone, who committed blasphemy, disrespect of a corpse, and disobedience to lawful church authority as a person who acts as if he believe the ends justifies the means, in direct opposition to CCC 1753 and 1759. Case closed, deacon. Bette rluck next time.

        • I never saw the video of Fr. Pavone with the body of the aborted child but I’m not sure in what way he disrespected human remains that had likely been retrieved from the rubbish.
          In whatever ways he may have failed in good taste & prudence he was drawing our attention to the humanity of the tiny victim. I see a parallel to making public the photos of concentration camp victims. As long as inhumanity & evil are abstract, we feel no urgency for change.

  8. If he was standing there, quietly praying to himself, not saying anything, how does anyone know he was praying?

    Maybe he was thinking about his girlfriend.

  9. Yet again democracy is clearly an illusion. The robber barons in poitics clearly only serve self and nothing like the 99.9999% of the rest of us in the nazi state that is Uk. The lapdogs in power make the old criminal lags like the krays et al puppies in comparison. They have billions ££££ taxpayers money to spend on their arms trade paymasters making war all over the globe and nothing to spend on the poor. The state police have not served Mr Average for over 40yrs. This example proves a deviant minority have total free reign over the stasi state UK. Once again WHERE IS THE CHURCH when it needs to stand and be counted?

4 Trackbacks / Pingbacks

  1. Second bystander ensnared by English ban on prayer outside abortion clinics | Passionists Missionaries Kenya, Vice Province of St. Charles Lwanga, Fathers & Brothers
  2. Second bystander ensnared by English ban on prayer outside abortion clinics – Catholic World Report – The Old Roman
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  4. Angleterre : Une seconde personne arrêtée pour sa prière

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