By BRODIE DONEGAN
Many of you probably have heard Zoe’s law (2) being discussed this week.
That law was named after my daughter.
My daughter who did not survive when a minivan driven by a drug affected driver on Christmas day 2009 left the road and hit me.
I was 32 weeks pregnant. It took three hours to extract me from the scene and transport me via helicopter to RNSH.
My daughter had a heartbeat upon arrival. Two hours later when they began to have trouble locating it, I was given an emergency caesarean.
Zoe didn’t make it. She couldn’t hold on that long. They couldn’t resuscitate her.
Zoe was brought to me. Gorgeous and just like her sister. She was almost 2kgs and 43cms long. She was perfect except for a mark on her lip from the resuscitation attempts. She was warm and she looked and smelt like any other newborn. She just wasn’t breathing. We were heartbroken.
I only got to see her two more times in the next 12 hours before the police took her to the coroners. I didn’t get to see her again until her funeral.
Our gorgeous 2 year old Ashlee also got to spend time with her.
She wanted to know why Zoe had a sore lip. She wanted to know if that was why she died.
I had many injuries including a 10cm screw inserted in my hip, broken rib, foot, and a de-gloved right thigh.
Losing my daughter was harder to recover from than any of my injuries.
I was in hospital for almost 5 weeks, I couldn’t walk on my right leg for 3 months and was unable to walk unaided for 5 months.
We couldn’t return home to our house for over 5 months.
Finally after 6 months, the driver was charged with Dangerous Driving causing grievous bodily harm to ME. Zoe was listed in with my injuries.
15 months after my accident the driver was sentenced to 9 months in jail and a further 18 month good behaviour bond. She FINALLY lost her license.
We have never felt that Zoe’s loss of life was acknowledged or taken into account. Losing her was far worse than my injuries. It was harder to recover from. Her loss was felt by our entire family.
We’d lost our daughter. Ashlee, her sister. Our parents, their granddaughter.
I couldn’t reconcile that the child I’d applied for a stillbirth certificate for, held a funeral for, received the baby bonus for, received paid parental leave from work for; wasn’t recognised separately to me.
This year two things happened. R.Fred Nile put in a law (Zoe’s law 1) without consulting us; this law covered the entire pregnancy and included crimes of negligence – this is something we have never endorsed and never wanted our daughters name attached to. So Chris Spence, our local MP helped us work on a law we could support. This law is Zoe’s Law (2).
I urge you to have a read of the Bill to understand exactly what we are campaigning for.
Zoe’s law (2) cannot in any shape or form charge the mother. It EXEMPTS ANYTHING done by the mother or with her consent.
Even if a mother, in a worst case scenario, committed a crime which as a result harmed her baby she would still not be charged with harming her own baby. (She would still be charged with any other relevant charges but not relating to her own baby).
It EXEMPTS medical professionals during the course of a medical procedure and medical professionals assisting a pregnant woman.
It will not affect the sale of the abortion pill. It will not affect a women’s right to terminate. Currently in NSW abortions are conducted between 3-20 weeks.
Pregnancies may be terminated at a later stage due to medical reasons relating to either the baby or the mother. This will NOT be affected. Again, done by the mother is EXEMPT. It will not affect underage mothers or disabled mothers: ANYTHING DONE BY OR WITH THE CONSENT OF THE MOTHER IS EXEMPT.
It ONLY applies to foetuses 20+ weeks or 400+grams. For foetuses younger than 20 weeks or smaller then 400grams the current law would continue to apply.
It CANNOT be used when charging for any negligent crimes. It’s only applicable to a few serious crimes. These are dangerous and aggravated dangerous driving or navigation of a boat, predatory driving, assault, offences with firearms and gunpowder (explosives), robbery and breaking and entering (and then inflicting grievous bodily harm).
As grievous bodily harm can only be applied to a person for those specific crimes ONLY a foetus 20+weeks is given personhood status. But it only remains and is contained within those acts. And still CANNOT be used to charge the mother or any medical professional for anything that happens in the course of a medical procedure.
The mother does NOT lose her rights. She only GAINS the right to have her baby recognised separately if due to a violent or criminal act the baby is harmed or loses its life.
Zoe’s law (2) does not have a blanket charge attached; it still operates on the sliding scale, as does the current law.
The charges associated with grievous bodily harm (currently and would continue to) take into account the severity of the crime, whether there is intent proven and the offender and their circumstances and history.
In the current law 25 years is the upper limit, but only applicable in the very worst cases and where intent to specifically harm the baby is proven. In most cases other than domestic assault this does not apply.
We have chosen 20+weeks so it ties in with the existing legislation and definitions in births deaths and marriages, Centrelink and the parental leave schemes available in many work places.
Why have we done all of this? Because from a victim’s perspective, we wanted to have our loss acknowledged. We held our daughter. She was real and existed. Had she been born in any other circumstances she more than would have likely survived without any lasting complications.
She was a good weight and size. We believe there’s a gap in the law. That it’s inconsistent that certain parts of government recognise the existence of the baby whilst the Crimes Act does not. Why do we have to wait for the baby to breathe to be able to acknowledge something caused it harm prior to its birth?
With current medical advancements babies can be saved from 23 weeks in some cases. Surely a woman continuing with her pregnancy should be given the right to have her babies life acknowledged if by way of a violent or serious criminal act that life is cut short.
My partner and I are pro choice. We do not want this law (or any law) to infringe on a woman’s right to choose.
We do not want this to affect any medical professionals. We have worked hard with our local MP to ensure that this law – Zoe’s law (2) is well written, tightly written and not able to be manipulated.
I believe women should be supported in which ever direction they head with their pregnancy. If they want or need a termination it should be available to them in a safe and legal environment.
In the same instance if a pregnancy is cut short due to a violent and/or serious indictable crime then that should also be recognised and supported. I can’t see why we can’t do both.
This is not about an eye for an eye. It’s not about murder or manslaughter. It is about recognising the life that was lost and having the offender take responsibility for that.
Brodie is 33 – a mother of 3 and a parent to 2 very active children. She was a London marathon finisher in 2012 with a time of 7hrs.43m. She’s currently studying nutrition and personal training.