The statement comes as parliamentarians in England and Wales have also conveyed concern about the direction of religious freedom within their jurisdiction as the Public Order Bill makes its way through Parliament.
Clause 9 of the Bill proposes to institute ‘buffer zones’ around abortion clinics nationwide, which campaigners argue would have a detrimental impact on outreach for women facing crisis pregnancies while raising fundamental questions concerning freedom of religion and expression.
Clause 9 faced notable scrutiny in the House of Lords on November 22 as peers across the political spectrum expressed unease with the introduction of buffer zones.
According to a statement from ADF International, Clause 9 of the Public Order Bill prohibits not only “harassment” outside of abortion facilities but “informing,” “advising,” “influencing,” “persuading,” and even “expressing an opinion.”
During the debate on Tuesday, Baroness 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 meters 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?”
Commenting on her own experience, Tossici-Bolt said in a statement on November 24: “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.”