At Family Planning Victoria we are proud to provide equal access to sexual health care, education and information to all people irrespective of cultural or linguistic background, sexual orientation, gender identity, intersex status, religion or spiritual beliefs, socio economic status, age or abilities. And we plan to keep it that way. FPV made an official submission in response to the Second Exposure Draft of the Religious Discrimination Bill on Friday 31 January.
Submission in relation to the Religious Discrimination Bill 2019 – Second Exposure Draft – January 2020
Why is Family Planning Victoria making this submission?
Family Planning Victoria (FPV) is a leading provider of sexual and reproductive health care, education and advocacy. We have been providing comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services in Victoria for 50 years.
We are proud to provide equal access to sexual health care, education and information to all people irrespective of cultural or linguistic background, sexual orientation, gender identity, intersex status, religion or spiritual beliefs, socio economic status, age or abilities.
In 2018-2019, Family Planning Victoria (FPV):
- Delivered 13166 consultations at our clinics to 7174 clients including (but not limited to) contraception, gynaecology, treatment of sexually transmitted infections, and termination of pregnancies;
- Provision of direct delivery of relationships and sexual health education to 26859 young people in Victorian schools;
- Trained 513 doctors, nurses, allied health and community workers in sexual and reproductive health services;
- Provision of 762 professional learning workshops and training in research-based and inclusive sexual health education;
- Provide direct delivery sessions to 857 parents and carers to develop confidence in having relationships and sexuality conversations with young people;
- Employed more than 80 staff, including health practitioners and educators.
In addition, FPV plays an important role in advocating for respectful relationships, and reproductive and sexual health in Victoria. In particular, FPV works to protect and enhance the sexual and reproductive health and rights of marginalised communities, including young people under the age of 25, people living in rural and remote areas, people living with disability, people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, Indigenous people, and LGBTQI+ people.
The second exposure draft of the Religious Discrimination Bill 2019 potentially impacts all FPV services, clients and staff.
The importance of providing family planning services free of discrimination
The critical role of sexual and reproductive health and rights in global development has been repeatedly highlighted by the United Nations Population Fund (1) and the World Health Organisation.(2) The United Nations Human Rights Commission also notes the importance of family planning in the The Convention on the Rights of the Child, specifically in the development and provision of preventive health care, guidance for parents and family planning education.(3)
FPV notes Australia’s obligations under numerous international conventions to ensure its citizens are provided with health care and health information, including sexual and reproductive health services, free of discrimination. These agreements include, but are not limited to, the International Convention on Economic, Cultural and Social Rights; the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
FPV is concerned that aspects of the second exposure draft of the Religious Discrimination Bill 2019 will constrain the effectiveness of sexual and reproductive health services in Victoria; impede our capacity to ensure all people have access to sexual health clinical care and relevant information; and result in groups of Victorians being discriminated against in relation to sexual and reproductive health care access, information, treatment, education and rights.
Scope of this submission
FPV notes that many Victorian organisations and individuals have provided comment, analysis and advocacy on the broad implications of the Religious Discrimination Bill 2019 on Victorians generally, and groups of Victorians specifically, including women, people with disabilities, young people, and LGBTQI+ people and their children.
In this submission, Family Planning Victoria focuses only on those aspects of the Bill that may have a direct impact on FPV’s capacity to provide and advocate for high quality sexual and reproductive health services to all Victorians.
Addressing the potentially negative impacts of the second exposure draft of the Religious Discrimination Bill 2019 on sexual and reproduction health and rights in Victoria
Family Planning Victoria respectfully requests that the Religious Discrimination Bill 2019 is amended - or other administrative or legislative actions are taken - to ensure the following:
- It must remain a requirement in Victoria, as currently provided under the Victorian Abortion Law Reform Act 2008, for safe exclusion zones to be upheld. It must also remain a requirement for professionals who have a conscientious objection to abortion to refer the woman to another registered health practitioner in the same regulated health profession who the practitioner knows does not have a conscientious objection to abortion.
- A sexual and reproductive health service such as Family Planning Victoria, must have the capacity to require its employees to provide health services, advice, information, counselling and education on a full range of lawful:
- pregnancy options, including but not limited to, abortion;
- contraception options;
- pre-natal practices;
- methods to minimise the incidence of sexually transmissible infections, including HIV.
- It must be lawful for organisations providing sexual and reproductive health services, such as Family Planning Victoria, to implement and enforce codes of conduct and employment conditions that require all employees and all contractors not to publicly advocate against the provision of the full range of lawful sexual and reproductive health services, advice, information, counselling and education offered by that service.
- It must be lawful for organisations providing sexual and reproductive health services, such as Family Planning Victoria to respectfully challenge and discuss perceptions that contribute to hurtful stigma (e.g. ‘menstruation is unclean’, or ‘homosexuals should be ashamed of themselves’).
- It must be lawful for organisations providing sexual and reproductive health services, such as Family Planning Victoria, to implement and enforce codes of conduct and employment conditions that require all employees and all contractors to provide lawful services to all consumers, including (but not limited to) young people of sufficient maturity, people with cognitive disabilities, a person of any of any gender, ethnicity, religion or sexuality and a person with any marital, parenting, breastfeeding, addiction, HIV or Hepatitis C status.
- The current provision in the Public Health and Wellbeing Amendment (Safe Access Zones) Act 2015 making it an offence for a person to engage in prohibited behaviour within an access zone (to ensure women can access reproductive health services free from harassment, intimidation, and protest), must not be impacted by any new Commonwealth law.
- Protections that currently apply in Victoria to prevent discrimination against people on the basis of age, sexuality, disability, gender identity, breastfeeding, parenting, family responsibilities, and other aspects of their sexual and reproductive status, should not be weakened by consequence of Commonwealth law.
- It must not be the case that a person in Victoria could be dismissed from their employment, or expelled from their education institution, due to a change in their sexuality or gender status. FPV notes in particular the mental health vulnerabilities of LGBTQI+ young people (4), and the serious negative impacts that expulsion from school could have on a young person exercising their rights to their sexual and/or gender identity.
If any further information is required on the potential impact of the Religious Discrimination Bill 2019 on the sexual and reproductive health of Victorians, please do not hesitate to contact Family Planning Victoria.
Chief Executive Officer
Family Planning Victoria
With special thanks to Family Planning Tasmania and FPAA.
1 - Singh, S. Darroch, J. and Ashford, L, Adding It Up: The Costs and Benefits of Investing in Reproductive Health Services, UNFPA, 2014
2 - World Health Organisation (WHO), Reproductive health strategy to accelerate progress towards the attainment of international development goals and targets, WHO, Geneva, 2004
3 - United Nations Human Rights, Office of the High Commissioner, Convention on the Rights of the Child, 1989
4 - National LGBTI Health Alliance (NLHA), Snapshot of Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Statistics for LGBTI people, NLHA, 2016