Concerns Over Impact of Religious Discrimination Bill on Safe Access Areas of Abortion Clinics | the lawyer



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Women’s Health Tasmania believe safe access zone laws for abortion clinics in the state could be jeopardized if a new federal government bill is passed. The government tabled its Religious Discrimination Bill in Parliament late last year, which would allow a person to intimidate, humiliate, ridicule or insult another person without any repercussions if they did so on the basis of his religious belief. People could also refuse goods and services, work or education if they do so because of their religious beliefs. IN OTHER NEWS Tasmania has abortion clinic safe zone laws which provide for a 150 meter exclusion zone around a clinic for anti-abortion activities. The laws were challenged in the High Court in 2019, but found to be constitutional. On Friday, Women’s Health Tasmania chief executive Jo Flanagan (pictured) told a parliamentary committee analyzing the government’s bill that he feared the new bill would override the zoning laws security. “Some legal opinions say the bill is silent on the matter, so it doesn’t look like it will impact the laws and other opinions say it will impact them,” she said. An earlier version of the Religious Discrimination Bill included provisions on conscientious objection for medical professionals. Ms. Flanagan said the bill in its current form would still give health care practitioners the right to make statements of belief to patients and potentially create a barrier to safe, dignified and consistent abortion care. According to the Tasmania Anti-Discrimination Commissioner’s 2020-2021 annual report, there have been 68 complaints of offensive conduct towards a person with a disability. Fiona Strahan, project manager for the Disability Voices Tasmania project, told the inquest she was a short person. She was told as a child that God made her special, but she was also told she was a sin. “It’s something a lot of us experience where unsolicited comments about us are given,” she said. “When we’re told we’re a sin or it’s a punishment, the hurt it creates is quite deep and confusing.”


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