Why “Zoe’s Law” should not get through

Featured image shows four women standing on the street in protest outside a church, one is holding a sign saying ‘honk if you support a woman’s right to choose’.

Christian Democratic Party MP Fred Nile has once again been trying to limit a women’s right to make choices about her own body. He’s going about it obliquely by introducing a piece of legislation called “Zoe’s Law”. This legislation will establish foetal personhood and bestow legal rights on a foetus. This tactic has been very successful in the US in limiting a women’s right to make decisions about her own body while pregnant.There is international precedent to show that this type of law can open the door to privileging the rights of the foetus over the rights of the women and potential prosecution of pregnant women who might smoke, drink or take drugs whilst pregnant.

The full title of the bill is “Crimes Amendment (Zoe’s Law) Bill 2013: An Act to amend the Crimes Act 1900 to prohibit conduct that causes serious harm to or the destruction of a child in utero; and for other purposes.”
You can see the F Collective’s full analysis of the proposed bill here.
Nile’s legislation is ostensibly about situations where a pregnant woman is injured by someone and a fetus is injured or dies. It makes it a crime not just against the woman but also against the foetus. As such, this law is an unnecessary addition to current laws.
The NSW Liberal Party appears to be planning to support a revised version of the bill. The revised bill proposed by Liberal MP Chris Spence would recognise the existence of a 20-week-old foetus as a living person.
Why this law is unnecessary:

There is already provision in the Crimes act that  allows a crime of harm to a woman’s pregnancy to be prosecuted.After several court cases in which a woman had lost a pregnancy due to dangerous driving or assault, the Crimes Act was amended, in 2005, so that the definition of Grievous Bodily Harm would include:

the destruction (other than in the course of a medical procedure) of the foetus of a pregnant woman, whether or not the woman suffers any other harm.

This is known as Byron’s Law

Grievous bodily harm carries a maximum of 25 years in prison, if there is intention to cause harm, 14 years if the company recklessly causes harm, 10 years if a person recklessly causes harm.

Personhood and Foetal Rights

Nile is trying to introduce into law the idea that a zygote/embryo/foetus has legal rights from the moment of conception. His intention with this bill is “broadening the scope of protection to include all stages of pregnancy”—in other words, setting legal precedent for all stages of pregnancy to be considered legal personhood.

What feminists are worried about:

This law could be used against pregnant women in all sorts of ways. It could be used against women who choose to have a home birth, and it could be used against midwives. It could be used against pregnant women who drink, or smoke, or take drugs, or choose to ignore recommend dietary guidelines and eat raw fish, or soft cheese. It could be used against women who stay in an abusive relationship (even when it’s a choice between abuse and homelessness)—and it could be used against women who end up homeless.

This law is far more likely to be used to imprison pregnant women (especially low-income and CALD women) than it is to dissuade anyone from committing violence against them.

To add insult to injury, Fred Nile has named his bill after a child who was stillborn after her mother was hit by a drunk driver. Nile did this without the permission of Zoe’s parents, appropriating their child’s death without consulting their wishes.  In UNSW’s Tharunka magazine, Brodie Donegan, the mother of Zoe, is quoted as saying: “I don’t support Fred Nile’s bill, or Fred Nile, and I’ve never had any communication with his office. We don’t want loopholes for a bill to be further amended to limit abortions — and that’s what my worry is about Fred Nile’s bill.”

The F Collective is doing some campaigning to ensure this legislation does not get passed. We would appreciate if you could pass this information along to your networks. If you would like to get involved in defeating this bill please email thefcollective@gmail.com.


Three women hold signs saying ‘honk if you support a woman’s right to choose’ and ‘you have 99 problems and they are all misogyny’.

4 Responses to “Why “Zoe’s Law” should not get through”
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Check out what others are saying...
  1. […] Review and more information about us and the Bill at http://ourbodiesourchoices.weebly.com and in this article and this update on the F Collective […]

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