Pro-life leaders welcomed a renewed push to recognise the death of unborn children in criminal cases when a pregnant mother is injured or killed in New South Wales.
But they agree that the Bill introduced by state attorney general Mark Speakman on 10 November still falls disappointingly short of full recognition under law of the unborn.
The proposed legislation known as ‘Zoe’s Law’ is named in honour of the unborn child of Central Coast woman Brodie Donegan.
Zoe died in the eighth month of pregnancy on Christmas Day in 2009 when Ms Donegan was struck by a driver under the influence of drugs.
The driver was charged with dangerous driving causing grievous bodily harm to Ms Donegan, but she faced no charge in relation to Zoe’s death.
The new law would allow family members to give victim impact statements, claim funeral costs, and have the name of the unborn child included on formal criminal charges.
It will also add three years to the maximum penalty for charges related to the mother, but these charges can only be laid where the foetus is at least 20 weeks’ gestation or 400 grams in weight.
Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP, who early this year made a joint submission with Archbishop of the Maronite Eparchy Charbel Tarabay on the proposed reform, said that it was “about time” the law gave some minimal recognition to the unborn child.
“The pro-abortion lobby have fought against this tooth and nail, even though by their own ‘pro-choice’ logic the law should recognise what a loss this is for a mother or couple who want their child,” the archbishop told The Catholic Weekly.
“Even after the passage of this Bill the law will still be a long way from treating the unborn child as a full human being.
“But Zoe’s Law will at least mean a deliberate or negligent attack on a pregnant woman that kills her child is not treated simply as an assault on her, as if the loss of the baby counted for nothing at all—as is the present state of the law. It’s a change now long overdue.”
Director of LifeChoice Rebecca Gosper also welcomed the news that the law would again be debated in the NSW Parliament.
“This is an important piece of legislation that will recognise unborn child victims of crime and allow their families’ grief to be publicly recognised,” she said.
“However, there will still be some parents whose tragic loss with continue to be ignored.
“Children younger than 20 weeks or 400g will be disregarded by our legal system.
“This is a grave injustice. Every loss of an innocent life is a tragedy and must be recognised as such.”
Australian Christian Lobby’s Christopher Brohier welcomed it as “an important step in recognising the preciousness of each life”.