Submission relating to the Exposure draft of the Crimes Legislation (Offences Against Pregnant Women) Bill 2020
Monday 25 January 2021
Thank you for the opportunity to provide feedback on the Exposure draft of the Crimes Legislation (Offences Against Pregnant Women) Bill 2020.
Overall, WayAhead – Mental Health Association NSW, is very supportive of the proposed legislative changes as set out in the exposure draft, as we feel it will go some way in bettering the mental health and wellbeing outcomes of families going through immense trauma and grief.
In particular we are supportive of
- The expansion of who can provide a Victim Impact Statement,
- eligibility for families to claim funeral costs where an unborn child is lost as a result of motor vehicle accident and,
- that existing laws on abortion remain unaffected as does the ‘born alive rule’.
Expansion of who can make a Victim Impact Statement
We support expansion of who can make a Victim Impact Statement to the baby’s wider family as for some families this will help in their grieving process and provide them with an opportunity to be listened to and heard. Arguably the loss of an unborn child through criminal actions is one of the worst scenarios any parent can go through, we are supportive of any actions, like this one, which can help parents through this process.
We note the comments of Hannah Robert made to the Sydney Morning Herald published on 10 November 2020 relating to this proposed change:
“Hannah Robert, senior law lecturer at La Trobe University, lost her unborn eight-month old daughter Zainab in a crash while driving home with her family from a picnic in 2009.
She said she was encouraged to see the proposed legislation moved away from using a foetal legal personhood model, under which a foetus is defined as a separate legal person to the mother.
“When people say it’s not going far enough, I think we’ve got to be really careful what they wish for,” she said.
Ms Robert said it was significant that the law expanded the category of who can make a victim impact statement.
“That was a crucial part of the criminal process. It meant we were heard. And not just me, but my partner who could speak as well.”
As mentioned previously, we are supportive of the bill’s amendments which would now see families being eligible to claim funeral costs where an unborn child is lost as a result of a motor vehicle accident.
In these circumstances we feel that it is the ethical and morally correct thing to do, to help the family during their time of grief. Funerals are expensive and this new eligibility will mean that families now do not have to worry about where they will find the money to bury their child. We encourage that the process for families to claim funeral expenses is done a simply as possible so the family is not required to go through a complex administration process and that staff working with families are provided training about how to work with people living through a traumatic event. It cannot be overstated the positive impact people have when the service they receive is trauma informed.
Existing laws on abortion and the ‘born alive rule’ remain unaffected
We think it is incredibly important that this proposed legislation is not viewed or seen to be the same as legislation governing abortions in NSW. Our strong view is that these two matters are different and this proposed legislation should not be used in any way to water down abortion legislation.
WayAhead is very supportive and remains committed to the ‘born alive rule’ as a legal principle and every effort must be made by lawmakers to uphold this important social and legal principle.
We of course welcome any opportunity to further discuss our submission with you, through the following WayAhead contact:
Corporate Affairs Manager
WayAhead – Mental Health Association NSW
02 9339 6000.