Woman moved on for praying near abortion clinic

Livia Tossici-Bolt(Photo: ADF UK)

A Bournemouth woman says she was told to "move on" by the authorities as she prayed outside an abortion clinic buffer zone. 

Livia Tossici-Bolt was praying with her friend outside the parameter of the 150m buffer zone when they were approached by two community safety officers employed by the local council to patrol the vicinity of the abortion clinic.

She says they were asked to leave the area because their prayer could cause "intimidation, harassment or distress". 

One officer also reportedly raised concerns about their proximity to a school and said that "the children may ask questions".

Tossici-Bolt is being supported by the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) UK.

"The principle of so-called "buffer zones" erodes the basic tenets of democracy – that is, in this country, we are allowed to hold different views and beliefs," commented Lois McLatchie, communications officer for ADF UK.

"We stand firmly against harassment of women. Police forces and local authorities already have a wealth of legislation to prevent and penalise harassment of women in any circumstance, let alone near an abortion facility.

"New 'censorship zones' go far further than is just or necessary – clamping down on civil liberties that allow volunteers to offer genuine help, or even just to pray, in a public space."

Tossici-Bolt said, "Everyone has the freedom to pray quietly in a public place.

"I would never dream of doing something that causes intimidation and harassment. We complied with the new rules instituted by the council and didn't pray within the censorship zone.

"Yet nevertheless, these prayer-patrol officers tried to intimidate us out of exercising our freedom of thought and of expression – in the form of prayer - which has been a foundational part of our society for generations."

Peers in the House of Lords this week debated legislative proposals in Clause 9 of the Public Order Bill that seek to prohibit "influencing" and "expressing opinion" near abortion facilities nationwide.

Speaking against the proposals, Baronness Claire Fox of Buckley said, "If we pass Clause 9, why will other institutions not demand buffer zones around their special case facilities?

"If we consider that in Clause 9 a buffer zone is defined very broadly as '150 metres from ... any access point to any building or site that contains an abortion clinic', does that not make protests of all sorts at hospitals potentially unlawful?

"What if you wanted to organise a vigil outside a hospital in which, for example, babies died due to negligence, such as in the maternity services scandal recently?

"What about a rally against the use of puberty blockers on teenagers? Would that be banned too?"