Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2005 Week 08 Hansard (Wednesday, 29 June 2005) . . Page.. 2420 ..
Ros, but it would not recognise the loss Ros and I would have suffered, and it would not recognise the loss of a sibling to my two boys. So clearly there is a gap. It is not acceptable to say, “Oh well, we recognise that there has been an attack on the mother.” Sometimes it might be a relatively minor assault and, in legal terms, the perpetrator would be subject to a fairly minor penalty, yet the mother and the family will have suffered a significant loss. The law at the moment does not recognise this at all.
This brings us to the heart of the matter. Do we, as an Assembly, support pregnant women in their attempts to nurture and protect their babies? Where a woman loses her baby due to the reckless or malicious actions of another, do we recognise that mother’s and that family’s loss? If we do not, I would suggest we are not doing our job as an Assembly; we are not protecting the vulnerable people we are charged with protecting. I know there has been debate in this place before on this issue, and there was some talk about bringing in an offence of aggravated assault in such circumstances, which I think would be better than nothing. I note that nothing has been done on it yet but, as I was saying before, it does not recognise the loss. If you say to a mother who has just lost a baby, “That assault was aggravated; it was a little bit worse than a normal assault,” she will say, “I’ve lost my baby. You are not recognising that in any way, shape or form.” The offence of aggravated assault, which would be welcome in and of itself, is not the answer. I think it is unfortunate that, despite talk when this was debated previously in the Assembly about aggravated assault, nothing, even on that front, has been done. Nothing has been progressed. It has been, I guess, put into the “too hard basket” because there is concern that it will reopen the abortion debate. That is the concern that is always put. It is absolutely clear from the wording of this legislation that that is not the case. Any other reading is not reading the legislation; it clearly delineates between the issues.
When we venture back into the electorate after this vote and talk to pregnant women, or if we were to talk to Kylie Flick or Renee Shields—Renee Shields lost her in utero child in a road rage incident—will we have the courage to tell them that their loss should not be recognised by law? Ask ourselves if we want to say to them, “We thought about doing something but it was a bit hard because there were some people who thought it would reopen the abortion debate.”
See how that argument runs with those mothers. See how that argument runs with any pregnant woman if you tell her, “We were going to take some action to prevent heinous crimes against women and their unborn babies but it was a little bit difficult; we had a feeling that it might reopen the debate.” See how that argument flies with those women and with your constituents. I would urge members to consider this closely. Have a look at it on its merits; have a look at what it does and does not do; try to think about what you would say to these women if you were asked about your position, and see if you would feel comfortable about the vote you are going to take, one way or another, today. Do give this due consideration. I commend this bill to the Assembly.
DR FOSKEY (Molonglo) (11.23): I have been reassured by Mr Pratt that the intention of this bill is to address the gap in the law, to deal with the situation where the criminal acts of one person cause death or harm to a pregnant woman’s foetus, and that it does not threaten a woman’s right to access abortion. Taking Mr Pratt’s concerns at their face value. I can support the intent of this bill, but could only agree to it if some profound changes were made. I know that this bill is somewhat changed from the form in which it