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Dorset pensioner on trial for offering to talk to women in crisis pregnancies

A retired medical researcher from Bournemouth is being prosecuted for holding up a sign within an abortion clinic buffer zone reading “Here to talk if you want to”.

The pensioner from Dorset and former medical researcher at Southampton’s University Hospital Trust, Livia Tossici-Bolt, 62, has been accused of violating the local public space protection order (PSPO) in place around the British Pregnancy Advisory Service abortion clinic in Bournemouth. 

Local authorities issued a Fixed Penalty Notice, which Tossici-Bolt refused to pay, claiming that she did not breach the PSPO, and had the right, under Article 10 of the Human Rights Act, which protects freedom of speech, to offer consensual conversations.

Nothing wrong with offering help

Bournemouth, Christchurch & Poole Council have proceeded to charge the volunteer, who awaits a trial date at Poole Magistrates’ Court.

Tossici-Bolt said “We all condemn harassment. But ‘buffer zones’ are going so far even to criminalise activities which are peaceful and helpful. For several years now, I have been offering a helping hand to women who would like to consider other options to abortion, and pointing them to options where they can receive financial and practical support, if that’s what they would like”.

“There’s nothing wrong with offering help. There’s nothing wrong with two adults engaging in a consensual conversation on the street. I shouldn’t be treated like a criminal just for this”.

Jeremiah Igunnubole, legal counsel for ADF UK, who is supporting Tossici-Bolt’s legal defence said “Under vaguely-written local “buffer zone” measures, we have seen volunteers like Livia criminalised simply for offering help to women in need; and others dragged through courts for praying, even silently, in their minds”.

“The principle of freedom of thought and speech must be defended both within and outside ‘buffer zones’. The Home Office have sought to keep our country in line with international law by protecting freedom of thought and of consensual conversation in the draft buffer zone guidance. It is vital, for the preservation of democracy, that this stands”.

Tossici-Bolt was interrogated for offering help outside of a buffer zone

Recently, Bournemouth, Christchurch & Poole Council had to apologise for causing the same woman to feel “distressed and harassed” when police officers wrongfully attempted to move her from a public street on another occasion. 

Tossici-Bolt was standing by herself holding a sign reading “Pregnant? Need help?” outside of the bounds of a buffer zone. 

Police officers confronted her and accused her of standing inside the “buffer zone”, which criminalises acts of “approval/disapproval… with respect to issues related to abortion services”.

The authorities have since admitted that she was not within the “buffer zone” but claimed the map she brought with her to indicate as much was “confusing“. The map was a copy of the map found on the council’s own website. 

“Livia was interrogated for praying and offering charitable help even outside of a buffer zone on one occasion – exposing the reality of the slippery slope of censorship. If the state is allowed to criminalise the mere holding of pro life viewpoints within certain public spaces, on what basis can we object to criminalisation in all public spaces?”

“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 pro life presence near abortion facilities”, Jeremiah Igunnubole said.

Spokesperson for Right To Life UK, Catherine Robinson, said “While Tossici-Bolt is not the first pro-lifer to be charged for an alleged violation of local buffer zone measures, her case will likely test the existing local buffer zone measures in Bournemouth as well as those proposed at a national level”.

Dear reader,

You may be surprised to learn that our 24-week abortion time limit is out of line with the majority of European Union countries, where the most common time limit for abortion on demand or on broad social grounds is 12 weeks gestation.

The latest guidance from the British Association of Perinatal Medicine enables doctors to intervene to save premature babies from 22 weeks. The latest research indicates that a significant number of babies born at 22 weeks gestation can survive outside the womb, and this number increases with proactive perinatal care.

This leaves a real contradiction in British law. In one room of a hospital, doctors could be working to save a baby born alive at 23 weeks whilst, in another room of that same hospital, a doctor could perform an abortion that would end the life of a baby at the same age.

The majority of the British population support reducing the time limit. Polling has shown that 70% of British women favour a reduction in the time limit from 24 weeks to 20 weeks or below.

Please click the button below to sign the petition to the Prime Minister, asking him to do everything in his power to reduce the abortion time limit.