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On September 26th 2013, Dr Mehreen Faruqi and the Greens NSW Women's Groups hosted a community forum on the legal and health implications on a foetal personhood before the NSW Parliament, the controversial Crimes Amendment (Zoe's Law)(No. 2). This clip features the first of three speakers, health law expert Julie Hamblin.
It is a repackaged version of a Bill introduced by Reverend the Hon Fred Nile in the NSW Legislative Council earlier this year, seeking to grant legal personhood to a foetus.
Zoe's Law proposes to amend the Crimes Act 1900 to recognise the separate existence of the foetus of a pregnant woman that is of at least 20 weeks' gestation, thereby seeking to redefine what it is to be a "person" in NSW for grievous bodily harm (GBH) offences. This conceptual change to the law is both dangerous and unnecessary.
There is already adequate provision in the justice system to respond appropriately to criminal incidents involving the death of an unborn child. An offence of this nature causing destruction of a foetus already carries a maximum prison sentence of 25 years. The same conclusion was reached by The Honourable Michael Campbell QC when he was asked by the then NSW Government to review the Crimes Act 1900 to assess current provisions.
On 6 September 2013, the NSW Bar Association, in response to the proposed legislation argues that there are "legitimate concerns" about the broader implications of the Bill. Once a definition of a foetus as a living person for the purpose of this Bill is adopted, "it would be difficult to resist its adoption in respect of other New South Wales criminal laws".
On 10 September 2013, the AMA wrote to NSW Health Minister Jillian Skinner with their concerns that the Bill could have unintended impacts on doctors in areas from genetics to obstetrics with unintended consequences and flow-on effects in other areas of medicine.
The unfortunate truth is that this Bill is just the latest in a sustained attack on women's rights.
For more information, have a look at Dr Faruqi's SBS article: www.sbs.com.au/news/article/2013/09/27/comment-legislating-foetal-personhood-misguided-public-policy or visit her website: www.mehreenfaruqi.org.au.