Religious Discrimination Bill Threatens Equitable Access to Healthcare

The Religious Discrimination Bill 2019 prioritises the religious beliefs of healthcare workers over the healthcare needs of individuals, including people who may already be disadvantaged and struggling to access appropriate services.

As the leading provider of sexual and reproductive healthcare services FPNSW cannot support a bill which further threatens equitable, universal access to healthcare.

When healthcare services can be refused based on religious belief, this challenges Australia's pursuit of achieving health care equity and puts some of our most vulnerable populations at risk.

This legislation threatens to reduce equitable access to health services like contraception, STI prevention and screening, pregnancy counselling and abortion services.

FPNSW has made a formal submission which asserts that the Bill fails to balance the right to be free from religious discrimination with patient rights, to access the highest standard of healthcare, the right to reproductive and sexual health services, and the right to freedom from discrimination, including on the basis of sex, pregnancy or sexual orientation.

Health workers have an enduring obligation to act in the best interests of their patients at all times. Professional codes of conduct and existing state legislation already allow health workers to respectfully disclose conscientious objections while ensuring patient care continues with another suitable health worker.

This Bill overturns that balance and will have a significant impact on access to healthcare, including reproductive and sexual health services for vulnerable and geographically remote communities. We are particularly concerned about how this legislation will impact priority populations including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, women, young people, the LGBTIQ community and people from rural areas who may not have access to a range of healthcare providers.

 

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