Submission to Religious Freedom Bills
In October 2019, Mental Health Australia made a submission to the Attorney-General’s Department’s consultation on the exposure drafts of the Religious Freedom Bills. This brief submission outlines that the exposure drafts of the Religious Freedom Bills do not achieve an appropriate protection for all parties by privileging religious freedom rights over the human rights of others.
If enacted, the Bills could make it easier for health practitioners to refuse health services on the basis of the health practitioner’s purported religious belief. Mental Health Australia sees potential detrimental impacts for (but not limited to) LGBTIQ+ people seeking healthcare and people seeking access to contraception, reproductive and sexual healthcare. The Religious Freedom Bills also operate quite differently to state legislation, which provide for the right to conscientious objection around some specific procedures but balance this with provision for access to adequate healthcare.
Mental Health Australia recommends that the current Bills are re-examined to ensure Australians’ fundamental human right to access to healthcare is not compromised by legislation that preferences religious freedom over other human rights.