The leader of an organization aimed at defending Christian values is on a mission to dismantle U.K. buffer zones, areas created to prevent protest — and even silent prayer — outside abortion clinics.
Andrea Williams, chief executive officer of Christian Concern, a group that works to encourage Christians throughout the U.K., said it’s hard for many in the West to imagine such restrictions on free speech.
“Those that are watching this will think, ‘Really, has Great Britain created a space where you are unable to speak quietly, unable even to pray, unable even to walk alongside a woman to explain another way when she’s in and around an abortion clinic?’” Williams said. “Well, that’s come to pass in the United Kingdom.”
Watch Williams explain:
She said the U.K. has always been a nation bent on championing free speech, freedom of conscience, and the freedom to protest, though recent regulations bringing buffer zones to the entirety of the nation have, in her view, impeded that legacy.
“This is something that has slipped in,” she said of the buffer laws. “It slipped in under another major act, the Public Order Act, of this year, and it’s slipped in by way of an amendment.”
Williams, who called the process of pushing the buffer zones through “absolutely shocking,” continued, “It’s actually one of the things that … tears up one of our fundamental constitutional principles around freedom to speak, freedom to protest, freedom to assemble.”
According to the nationalized abortion buffer zone rules, no one is allowed to protest for 150 meters (over 490 feet) “from any direction” of the clinic. Williams believes efforts to curb the presence of pro-life campaigners are rooted in an attempt by the abortion lobby to simply snuff out their presence.
As CBN’s Faithwire previously reported, the Public Order Bill crossed all parliamentary hurdles earlier this year, creating the massive buffer zone around abortion clinics. The bill criminalizes “influencing” outside abortion facilities, which includes prayer, peaceful conversations, or offers to help women with services available to those who would like an alternative to abortion.
Williams said these clinic protections don’t apply to other such buildings and raised a shocking issue worthy of pondering: what happens if a person’s home or private business is within the buffer zone?
She pondered whether such an individual or business owner would be free to pray or protest inside his or her residence. So far, she said it’s been affirmed these individuals won’t be held accountable, though the potential implications certainly seem important in light of the law.
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“One of the things that’s been extraordinary in and around the clinics is … the abortion lobby has created this idea that peaceful campaigners, peaceful Christians, peaceful lovers of life are somehow a threat and intimidatory to the women that might enter these clinics,” Williams said. “If there had been intimidation and harassment, then our criminal rules are already there to ensure that that wouldn’t happen.”
Williams also offered a warning to Americans watching what’s happening in the U.K., noting it has a “serious constitutional impact.” She’s hoping the U.S. doesn’t follow down the same path.
“I would like to warn those of you in America to ensure that these … measures that get placed in and around certain buildings … in and around abortion clinics … take on a quasi-criminal force,” she said.
Williams said Christian Concern will continue to challenge buffer zones and “speak truth, speak life, [and] speak hope” to women in and around these clinics.
“We must actually speak publicly, speak bravely,” she said. “The women that are accessing the abortion also have the right to hear of hope, and life, and another way — and we must never yield in being brave, in speaking the hope that we have.”
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