Zoe's Law

19 September 2013

Professor Cameron Stewart discusses Zoe's Law, a private members bill to be debated in NSW Parliament that changes the legal status of an unborn child and, in very limited circumstances, makes it a crime to kill a foetus that's 20 weeks or older.

In an interview with Radio National's The Law Report, Professor Stewart says there are two versions of Zoe's Law before the New South Wales parliament at the moment.

"The first version creates a new crime of child destruction, which allows for the prosecution of the destruction of a fetus in utero.

"The second version of Zoe's Law is different in that it tries to introduce a new concept of personhood which would apply to foetuses which are at 20 weeks of gestation or 400 grams if there is a dispute about gestation.

"And that law would expand the definition of personhood to a number of crimes, including intentionally causing grievous bodily harm.

"I think all of these laws are looking at striking a balance, the balance is between the rights of women to have control over their bodies and also the state's interest in the protection of and respect for foetuses.

"So that balance has always been difficult to draw, and the common law has drawn it at birth, and it says that a person doesn't become a person until they are born.

"Now, we could have arguments about that, and many people argue about this all the time, but that's the position we've adopted for about 1,000 years.

"The current versions of both laws have an exception for medical procedures.

"So it's true that neither of them would, in effect, change laws about abortion, but I'm worried about that definition of procedure.

"There are many types of administration of termination that might be done, say, through an abort efficient which might not fall within a concept of a procedure."

Listen to the program or download the transcript

Contact: Greg Sherington

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