Pro-life volunteer moved on for praying silently on Bournemouth street

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Livia Tossici-Bolt being spoken to by officers beyond the boundary of a Public Spaces Protection Order near an abortion clinic.(Photo: ADF UK)

A pro-life volunteer has filed a complaint with council officials in Bournemouth after she was moved on for praying silently on a public street. 

Livia Tossici-Bolt was praying peacefully and holding a sign with information about how pregnant women could get help when she was approached by officers. 

The Alliance Defending Freedom UK (ADF), which is supporting Ms Tossici-Bolt, said that offers accused her of breaching an abortion clinic buffer zone, which criminalises “expressions of approval or disapproval” of abortion.

According to ADF UK, Ms Tossici-Bolt was not standing within the buffer zone at the time and was out of sight of the abortion clinic. 

Commenting on the officers’ actions, she said, “I have devoted my time to supporting women in crisis pregnancies for many years, sharing information about support available should they choose to keep their babies. This is what real choice looks like for women. 

“In implementing a censorial ‘buffer zone,’ the authorities have deterred me from offering that help where it’s needed most, near the abortion facility.

“But even now, when I have stood outside the boundary of the censorship zone, authorities have acted to intimidate and remove me – simply for praying and offering help. It isn’t right that they should be allowed to do this, solely on the basis that they disagree with my peacefully-expressed beliefs.”

ADF is supporting Ms Tossici-Bolt in her formal complaint against the council. Legal counsel for the organisation, Jeremiah Igunnubole, said her treatment was “the clearest example yet of the dangerous slippery slope posed by nationwide censorship zones”.

“The purported blanket bans on prayer and consensual conversations were never about the prevention of harassment and intimidation – after all, in the UK, not a single pro-life vigil volunteer has been convicted for harassment and intimidation in over 40 years of prolife presence near abortion facilities,” he said. 

“Rather, these zones have the effect of stamping out pro-life views from the public square. If the state is allowed to criminalise the mere holding of prolife viewpoints within certain public spaces, on what basis can we object to criminalisation in all public spaces?

“The principle of freedom of thought and speech must be defended both within and outside ‘buffer zones’ – the alternative is state sponsored censorship, the silencing of those with viewpoints considered non-mainstream, and the undermining of the very fabric of our democracy.” 

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