I read with sadness the news reports about a tragic car accident that took place over the recent long weekend. A heavily pregnant mother, her sister, and her unborn twins were killed.
An allegedly drunk driver was reportedly responsible for the crash and is facing a number of charges. However, none of these charges relate to the lives of the two children who were due to be born the following week. The children’s father, who was also in the vehicle, remains in hospital, unconscious, and fighting for his life.
It is my view that the children’s lives should be afforded no worth or recognition under New South Wales legislation is unacceptable. Four people were killed in this car accident, not two.
There is legislation currently before the New South Wales parliament known as ‘Zoe’s Law,’ which would create a separate, criminal charge for harming the unborn child. Essentially, this bill would make provision for a person to be charged with murder or manslaughter if they, through a criminal offence, injure or kill an unborn child older than 20 weeks.
The Bill is named after Zoe, an unborn child who was killed on Christmas Day in 2009 under very similar circumstances. Zoe’s mother, Brodie Donegan, was 32 weeks pregnant with Zoe when she was hit by a reckless driver under the influence of drugs at the time.
Zoe’s Law was originally a private member’s bill proposed in 2013 by the Member for the Entrance, Liberal MP Chris Spence, and was passed in the New South Wales Legislative Assembly 63-26 in favour. Unfortunately, the opportunity to vote on the bill in the upper house never arose, and the legislation lapsed after the 2015 election.
Since this time, Zoe’s Law has been revived by Fred Nile in the New South Wales Legislative Council, and there is again an opportunity to pass this important legislation before the parliament rises in November.
However, with only a few sitting weeks left in this parliamentary term, there is a real danger that the bill could lapse for a second time. As a Member of Parliament, I intend to do everything I can to ensure that this does not happen, for the bill deserves to be put to a vote.
I reiterate: there were four people killed in that car crash last week. And yet the reality is that currently, New South Wales legislation recognises only two victims. This is something for which every member of our parliament ought to feel ashamed.
Zoe’s mother has been waiting since 2013 for the New South Wales parliament to acknowledge the priceless worth of the child she tragically lost. We owe it to these families not to make them wait any longer. Should Zoe’s law reach the lower house, I will be voting in favour of the bill, and I encourage you reading to contact your local MP to impress upon them to do the same.
Damien Tudehope is the Member for Epping in the New South Wales Parliament.
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