Page 1390 - Week 05 - Wednesday, 6 April 2005

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Based on the legal proceedings in the United States House of Representatives and the court proceedings in Arkansas in the United States, both in 1999, the Liberal opposition has proposed this legislation. Also the recent introduction of Byron’s law into New South Wales shows that this type of legislation is both sensible and warranted. This proves that there is a need for this type of legislation in the ACT. So not only from a national point of view but also from an international point of view, there are very strong precedents for the introduction of this law here. We have to protect as many people, born or unborn, as we can in this society, and this legislation is a step towards this.

The basic purpose of this legislation would make it an offence to injure or kill an unborn child through assaulting or poisoning with an abortion agent a woman who is known to be pregnant and who, as a direct result of the offence, loses her child. In addition, the legislation provides for charging an assailant who caused the injury or death of an unborn child and, although they may have done so unaware that the woman was pregnant, in many cases they ought reasonably to have been aware that the woman may be pregnant.

This means that people who initiate a serious assault or offence must accept full responsibility for their actions. The legislation would also allow the courts to charge those responsible for the death of an unborn child with criminal homicide, with charges ranging from unlawful killing through to manslaughter and murder. The legislation would also give the category of personhood to unborn children in civil cases.

This legislation only applies to wilful acts intended to cause injury or death to the mother or unborn child. However, I will again use the New South Wales example of Byron Shields to highlight the need for this legislation and the situation where this legislation could be applied. Byron Shields lost his life less than two months from his expected birth, following a hit and run on his mother by a drunk driver.

The driver of the vehicle escaped a conviction for manslaughter because the court then ruled that a seven-month old foetus was not human. This problem is now being addressed, in New South Wales at least, with the successful introduction, as I said earlier, of what is now referred to as Byron’s law. As we speak, that process is being exercised through the New South Wales parliament.

Let us bring the issue closer to home. On about 15 November of last year, we had a dreadful accident here in the ACT which resulted in the death of Ms Naomi Warne, an Oxley mother, who was three months pregnant with her fourth child. She was riding as a pillion passenger on the back of a Kawasaki motorbike ridden by her 33-year-old partner. Two young reckless drivers, incidentally allegedly rapidly departing the scene of unlawful behaviour, sped into Tharwa Drive and very likely caused the accident to occur.

Mr Stanhope: On a point of order, Mr Speaker—

MR SPEAKER: I think I know the point you are about to take.

Mr Stanhope: This is a matter that has not been tested before the court. I am appalled that a member of this place would stand and make those allegations in relation to

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