NSW govt to review unborn child death laws

  • 24/05/2010

By Amanda Gillies

The New South Wales government has announced the review of laws governing the deaths of unborn children.

The move comes after a pregnant woman lost her baby when she was hit by a motorist, allegedly high on drugs, on Christmas day last year.

Brodie Donegan and the baby’s would-be father, Nick Ball, have spoken out against the law – which effectively says their baby never existed - in the hope of getting it changed.

“It’s ridiculous. It’s rude. It’s not acknowledging her life,” Ms Donegan says.

“It’s not acknowledging she was part of our family.”

Ms Donegan was 32 weeks pregnant with her second child, when she decided to go for a walk to stretch her legs.

She was just 20 metres from home when she was struck by a car which had swerved off the road.

The impact shattered her pelvis, lower spine, hip and right foot.

It also killed her unborn baby daughter, Zoe.

“The social worker came in and asked if I wanted to see her, had dressed her and brought her down – which was really quite sad because she looked like a peaceful little baby,” Ms Donegan says.

The driver was not injured.

She was later charged with dangerous driving causing grievous bodily harm and driving under the influence of drugs.

Ms Donegan says she should be charged with murder or manslaughter.

“She caused the death of my baby, so she should be charged with the death of my baby,” she says.

“We don’t wish it upon anyone, but in the even that it happens, people who get behind the wheel should be held accountable,” says Mr Ball.

Police have told the couple, under current law, the harshest penalty is grievous bodily harm – which carries a maximum penalty of 25 years in prison.

This afternoon, Attorney General John Hatzistergos announced a review of that law.

“There clearly are legal and moral complexities associated with this issue, I’m not denying that,” says Mr Hatzistergos .

“However I also understand the tremendous human tragedy in losing an unborn child. Therefore I think it’s important to review our laws from time to time. I think this is the time and occasion to do so.”

The issue of extending the definition of manslaughter or murder, to include the death of an unborn child, was last examined in Australia in 2002.

But now a retired judge will review that, with the attorney general saying it is important to be up to date and relevant.

Under New Zealand law an individual can be jailed if they cause the death of an unborn child – but only if they would have been guilty, had the child become a human being.

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source: newshub archive