Bournemouth ‘buffer zone’

Livia Tossici-Bolt is challenging a local Public Space Protection Order outside an abortion clinic in Bournemouth that censors free speech and makes prayer illegal.

40 Days for Life is an international grass roots organisation dedicated to ending abortion. The group of volunteers in Bournemouth includes a small number of mostly females who regularly offer help and information on alternatives to abortion to women outside the clinic. During the opening times of the clinic, volunteers stand peacefully, holding nothing but a couple of small signs offering help. Prayers, which are a central part of 40 Days for Life activities, are either said quietly or silently.

However, after smear campaigns in the local media by pro-abortion group ‘Sister Support’, alongside intimidation and growing harassment of the volunteers outside the clinic, the local council launched a consultation to introduce a ‘buffer zone’ around the clinic, proposing to ban all pro-life activity – despite the pro-life group being the ones to face harassment.

The ‘buffer zone’ has now been introduced – with no effort made to consult the pro-lifers who volunteered outside the clinic – prohibiting any discussion of abortion or offers of help within the area, banning prayer and reading from the Bible, making the sign of the cross, counselling and/or providing information and other support available to women in crisis pregnancies. Sprinkling holy water within the zone could even lead to volunteer facing six months in jail.

Backed by the Christian Legal Centre, Miss Tossici-Bolt is now challenging the council and the validity of the Public Space Protection Order, arguing that the council has exceeded its powers.

Miss Tossici-Bolt commented: “Everyone must have the freedom to pray quietly in a public place. Everyone must have the freedom to give and to receive information. I, and my group of volunteers, would never dream of doing something that causes intimidation and harassment and I find extremely concerning that unfounded accusations of such reprehensible behaviour have been used for ideological gains to discredit genuine humanitarian endeavours. We have already been intimidated out of exercising our freedom of thought and of expression, but have continued to defend these fundamental rights with a peaceful conduct.

“By imposing this PSPO, the BCP council is preventing women coerced into abortion from being reached and helped, and denying women and couples in difficult circumstances the possibility of receiving independent information and supportive alternatives to abortion. We believe what the council has done is unlawful, discriminatory and unethical and we are determined to fight for justice.”

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