NEW South Wales Liberal MP Chris Spence's push to have Zoe's Law 2 recognised has been met with vocal criticism from those who are concerned about the impact changes to the law could have on women.
The bill, which calls for a foetus of 20 weeks or weighing more than 400g to be regarded as a living person under the Crimes Act so that charges of grievous body harm can be laid, was put before the NSW lower house for a conscience vote on Thursday.
Mr Spence introduced the bill at the request of constituent Brodie Donegan, who lost her baby Zoe in 2009 after she was hit by a car while 32 weeks pregnant.
While there is widespread sympathy for Ms Donegan's tragic suffering, doctors and women's groups say that if the bill is passed it could have dire consequences for women who choose to have abortions.
They argue that the Crimes Act already recognises grievous bodily harm to an expectant mother if her foetus is harmed in a criminal act such as reckless driving or assault and that Zoe's Law would only serve to further criminalise abortion in a state that is veiled as to its legality in the first place.
Mr Spence has amended the bill so that "medical treatments", in addition to medical procedures and anything done with the consent of the woman, are exempted but family law experts have joined women's health organisations and the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists in mounting an objection against what they say could end up being an assault on women's reproductive rights.
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