Health sector alliance raises concerns over Religious Discrimination Bill draft

The Women's hospital external view
26 February 2020 |

The Royal Women’s Hospital has joined an alliance of Victorian health organisations calling on the Prime Minister and Attorney General to ensure the Religious Discrimination Bill does not compromise the sector’s ability to provide high-quality care to everyone, without discrimination.

A statement released today by 15 hospitals, health services and professional bodies, including the Women’s, raises serious concerns over the potential for the Bill to ‘jeopardise the ability of many people to find healthcare that is compassionate and non-judgemental.’  

As the largest public provider of sexual and reproductive health services in Victoria, the Women’s is primarily concerned with the potential impact on provision of abortion and contraceptive care for women and girls across the country.

The Women’s Chief Executive Officer, Dr Sue Matthews, said the joint statement showed a strong unity across the sector on this important issue.

“While we absolutely agree that everyone should be able to practice their faith free from discrimination, we feel that the exemptions in the latest draft of the Religious Discrimination Bill put health care, and patients, at risk of being adversely impacted,” said Dr Sue Matthews. 

“For the first time, this group of 15 organisations that have joined together to make a statement: laws that privilege religious views of patient health are unacceptable. We hope that the Prime Minister and Attorney-General see this and take action in the coming months.”

Head of Contraception and Abortion Services at the Women’s, Dr Paddy Moore, added: “It is absolutely vital that women and girls, especially in regional and rural areas, are able to speak to their doctor about contraception, and also about an unwanted pregnancy – and access quality care they need. This is fundamental in ensuring women and girls have autonomy over their bodies and future.

“In October 2019, New South Wales was the fifth state to decriminalise abortion. We have had State Government strategies to enhance the sexual and reproductive health of women and girls, and now we have a National Women’s Health Strategy from the Commonwealth Government. Now, the Religious Discrimination Bill could potentially diminish these steps forward in abortion and contraceptive services, undoing the impactful work taking place, particularly in Victoria, in improving access to this care.”

The statement is available here.

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