A Conservative minister has been criticised after sharing a social media post which claimed a Christian woman was arrested for “silently praying” outside an abortion clinic.
Health minister Maria Caulfield tweeted a video showing anti-abortion activist Isabel Vaughan-Spruce, 45, being detained by police outside the Robert Clinic in Kings Norton, Birmingham.
The MP criticised the public spaces protection order (PSPO) set up by the council at the clinic which creates a buffer zone protecting patients and staff from harassment.
Caulfield has been condemned for her response to the incident, with the clinic’s chief of staff accusing her of being ill-informed.
Caulfield shared a tweet containing the arrest video last Friday, saying: “People told me I was exaggerating when I said Christians would be arrested on the streets of England with the buffer zone legislation.
“A Christian country at Christmas and police arresting some for saying a prayer”.
BPAS Robert Clinic chief of staff Rachael Clarke explained on Twitter Vaughan-Spruce and her group had been standing outside the clinic since 2018 and Caulfield "should be better informed".
She wrote: “What's also unacceptable is that the only law we can resort to address this problem is anti-social behaviour law.
“It works, but its implementation is patchy. That's why we worked so hard to get universal buffer zones around abortion clinics into the Public Order Bill.”
In October, MPs supported proposals to introduce buffer zones around abortion clinics and hospitals in England and Wales.
The move, pushed by a cross-party group of MPs, would make it an offence to interfere, intimidate or harass women accessing or people providing abortion services.
Those convicted could face up to six months in jail for a first offence or two years for further offences.
Caulfield, who previously voted against legalising abortion in Northern Ireland, voted against the buffer zones because she did not consider them "proportionate to the issue at hand".
Reproductive healthcare charity BPAS backed Clarke’s Twitter thread.
The charity has previously condemned the appointment of Caulfield, pointing out she voted to recriminalise at-home early medical abortions and was also against measures to protect women from anti-abortion clinic harassment like buffer zones.
Vaughan-Spruce was arrested on 6 December for breaching the PSPO and will appear at Birmingham Magistrates' Court on 2 February.