Christian Democratic Party MP reverend Fred Nile first proposed a bill in 2013 that would make it a crime to harm or destroy a foetus, and he’s introduced iterations of the legislation in subsequent years.
However two factors might just help Nile get some version of his bill across the line this time.
The first is that the state’s premier Gladys Berejiklian has indicated she is open to discussions about changing the law so that the state can pursue charges against a person who kills a foetus, following a horrific car crash that claimed the lives of two young women, one of whom was heavily pregnant with twins.
The second is that Nationals MP Trevor Khan has drafted a list of amendments to Nile’s most recent bill, which he believes could satisfy all parties in this reignited debate over whether or not a foetus is legally a “person”.
The legislation is named “Zoe’s Law” because of Sydney woman Brodie Donegan, who was hit by a drug-affected driver in 2009. Her unborn child, named Zoe, died at 32 weeks. The driver was charged with grievous bodily harm to Donegan, but could not be charged with Zoe’s death.
Ahead of the upper house vote in 2014, women’s rights groups and legal and medical associations raised concerns about the impact on abortion laws of giving a foetus legal personhood.
Donegan has repeatedly said she does not support Nile’s bill.
The ramifications might not be limited to abortion, and women could end up in a similar situation to some jurisdictions in the United States, where women were prosecuted over their own miscarriages . . .
Khan said Nile’s bill applies to a pregnancy “from conception”, whereas his third amendment sets a gestational limit of 24 weeks. The destruction of a foetus before this gestation would not be captured by the offence.
He has also included a section that essentially says if a woman’s foetus is harmed in the course of criminal activity, she could be liable to prosecution.
The last sitting day Nile can try and resuscitate this bill is November 15, on which Labor and Greens MPs have organised protests against the legislation.