By Elle Kay ||
In February of 2023, Stephen Green of South Wales was arrested for holding a sign within a designated safe zone for an abortion facility. He has now been sentenced to a 12-month conditional discharge and fined about £2,426 (approximately $3000 USD). According to sentencingcouncil.org.uk, a conditional discharge means that “if the offender commits another crime, they can be sentenced for the first offence and the new one.”
Green’s sign read, “Psalm 139:13: For thou hast possessed my reins: thou hast covered me in my mother’s womb.” The police were called and Green’s presence there was labeled an “emergency,” according to the Christian Voice. But Green left before the police arrived about 40 minutes later. He was later fined £100 by the Ealing Council, but declined to pay the fine. He was then called to court in the fall of 2023.
Green stated, “I see this prosecution as an attack on the Bible and free speech. I am determined to defend myself and fight for justice.” Green, a 72-year-old pastor and national director of the Christian Voice UK, claims his intent was to protest the buffer zone specifically.
This buffer zone in front of the MSI Reproductive Choices facility prevents sidewalk counselors and others praying and peacefully protesting from reaching or having any contact with the clients entering. The Anti-Social Behavior, Crime and Policing Act of 2014 outlines in section 67 that its goal is to prevent prayer and protest in regard to the abortions done at the facility.
According to District Judge Kathryn Verghis, Green “pointedly and intentionally” left the words ‘in my mother’s womb’ in the Bible verse to openly protest the facility and make clients uncomfortable as they enter and exit. This was, as she said, “an expression of disapproval as envisaged by the order.” She also reasoned that he could have peacefully protested outside of the buffer zone if necessary.
The BBC noted that the judge “accepted the protest had been peaceful, but attached ‘great weight’ to the fact he could have protested in an area not covered by the order.” The court was told that “clinic staff were diverted from their work to deal with the protest, and that residents challenged Green, but that there was no evidence of any clinic patients suffering.”
Andrea Williams of the Christian Legal Centre stated, “Buffer zones are an oppressive part of the current culture which force consent and silence dissent. The effect of the PSPO is to criminalize any act of disapproval of abortion and to create an area where no discussion or even prayer relating to abortion is permitted.”
Green’s lawyer Robert Smith stated that,“articles 9, 10 and 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights,” can all be used in Green’s defense. “Article 9 is freedom of belief, Article 10 is freedom of expression and Article 11 is freedom of assembly.”
Green has pleaded not guilty and Smith intends to appeal the charges.