Australian women have every reason to be deeply concerned about the Morrison government’s imminent Religious Discrimination Bill.
This week, Attorney-General Michaelia Cash will be meeting with a fundamentalist far-Right Christian lobby group that is working to import the Texas-style tactics to reduce women’s access to legal abortion services in Australia.
We know this because on Thursday, Greg Bondar, one of the leaders of the FamilyVoice group, boasted on Christian radio about the upcoming meeting he will have with the Attorney-General to discuss the Religious Discrimination Bill.
On 8 October, Mr Bondar called in to the 20Twenty show during an interview with Nationals MP George Christensen about the issue of abortion to say that FamilyVoice had been in contact with the Texas Governor’s office to seek advice about strategies on limiting access to abortion services.
I’m deeply concerned about the highly biased nature of the Attorney-General’s consultations process as she forms the third version of the Religious Discrimination Bill.
A-G @SenatorCash will this week meet with a fundamentalist Christian group that wants to import Texas-style tactics to limit access to abortions. A-G, are you listening to them ahead of Aust women on the #ReligiousDiscriminationBill?
Read more:https://t.co/fztJFscnAb#auspol pic.twitter.com/UhcYSrDE8U
— MeredithDoig (@MeredithDoig) October 31, 2021
As we reported last week, the government is privileging religious groups and excluding non-religious voices from the consultations process, even though the bill is supposed to protect religious belief and non-belief equally.
Back in June, the RSA sent a letter to the Attorney-General requesting a meeting to discuss the third draft of the bill. We still haven’t received the courtesy of a reply!
Meanwhile, a number of far-Right Christian groups appear to have easy access to the Attorney-General – and, in the case of the Australian Christian Lobby, appear to be dictating parts of what will be in the bill.
And, now, FamilyVoice will have an opportunity to meet the Attorney-General to share what they have learnt from the Texas Governor about limiting access to abortion services.
Women are among those who would have been disproportionately badly affected if either the first, and particularly the second, draft of the bill had gone ahead.
These initial drafts of the bill would have empowered front-line health professionals to put their personal religious views before a woman’s right to access health services such as contraception, fertility treatment, or timely and non-judgemental access to abortion. That’s why the RSA and other pro-secular groups formed the #DontDivideUs campaign, to raise awareness of the divisive nature of this bill.
Worryingly, we don’t yet know what will be in the third draft. It’s possible the Morrison government could put forward something more acceptable, especially to women, and less divisive.
However, given the privileging of religious voices in the government’s biased consultation process, I’m deeply concerned – and so too should be every woman in this country.
The last thing Australian women need is for fundamentalist religious groups to be urging the Attorney-General to include Texas-style tactics that would make it even harder for women to access legal abortion services.