A person caught praying outside an abortion clinic in England can now face up to six months in prison—even if he or she prays silently.
In a 297–110 vote, members of Parliament backed an amendment to the Government’s Public Order Bill that outlaws the offering of prayer and advice to women outside of abortion clinics.
Labour Member of Parliament (MP) Stella Creasy introduced the bill to protect women from alleged “intimidation and harassment,” but critics argue it restricts freedom of speech and expression.
“There is no evidence of the scale of harassment related, indeed, some in this house have referred to today. Therefore, I would take this amendment is not necessary,” says MP Carla Lockhart.
The U.K. has already taken steps to implement censorship zones that prohibit someone from using a mic to audibly pray and recite Scripture outside of a clinic or kneel 500 feet outside a facility.
This new law could not only stop pro-life advocates from gathering at a home or church located close to the clinic, but it would also jail people who silently pray outside an abortion facility.
“The wording could even catch those quietly praying,” explains MP Fiona Bruce. “But when did it become against the law in this country to pray? Well, unfortunately, five councils have now defined protests as including the word ‘prayer.’ Indeed, during the course of court proceedings, this has even been confirmed as including ‘silent prayer.’”