Fred Nile resurrects foetal personhood bill

NSW Christian Democrat MLC Fred Nile intends to reintroduce a bill to give personhood rights to foetuses
Friday, November 6, 2015

NSW Christian Democrat MLC Fred Nile intends to reintroduce a bill to give personhood rights to foetuses. He has already had several attempts — the last one failing a year ago.

On November 9, Nile sent NSW Legislative Council members notice of his new Crimes Amendment (Zoe's Law) Bill 2015.

The Crimes Act currently recognises grievous bodily harm to a pregnant woman if her foetus dies as a result of assault or violence committed against her. The maximum sentence is 25 years' jail.

NSW Christian Democrat MLC Fred Nile intends to reintroduce a bill to give personhood rights to foetuses. He has already had several attempts — the last one failing a year ago.

On November 9, Nile sent NSW Legislative Council members notice of his new Crimes Amendment (Zoe's Law) Bill 2015.

The Crimes Act currently recognises grievous bodily harm to a pregnant woman if her foetus dies as a result of assault or violence committed against her. The maximum sentence is 25 years' jail.

Nile's bill wants to allow a special prosecution for those found guilty of “recklessly harming or destroying a child in utero”. The maximum penalty would be 10 years' jail.

Nile's first attempt to introduce a foetal personhood law was in 2010, and it passed by the Legislative Assembly in 2013. Its backers then included Liberal Legislative Council members Christopher Spence, Maria Ficarra and MLA Chris Hartcher — all of whom were caught out for corruption. It eventually lapsed in November last year.

That version sought to change the Crimes Act to recognise a foetus aged over 20 weeks and weighing 400 grams as a “living person”. This version is worse: it does not proscribe a set number of weeks, referring only to a “child in utero” as the “prenatal offspring of a woman”.

The NSW Law Society, the Australia Medical Association, the Australia and New Zealand College of Obstetrics and Gynaecology and the NSW Greens have spoken out against any law that gives foetuses personhood rights. Concerns include legal ambiguity, and women not being able to access abortion — which is still a criminal offence in NSW.

Nowhere in Australia does a foetus have a separate legal status to that of a woman.

NSW Greens MLC Mehreen Faruqi told on November 5: “Defining a foetus as a 'child in utero' is a fundamental conceptual change to the law and could have serious ramifications for a woman's right to seek a pregnancy termination. This bill must be seen for what it is: an attempt to infringe on the rights of women and their bodily autonomy.”

Like the article? Subscribe to Green Left now! You can also like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Issue