14 Nov 2013, Comments (5)

To Brodie Donegan, on the NSW foetal personhood bill

Author: Helen

I heard a detailed account of the ups and downs in NSW over the introduction of ‘Zoe’s Law’ on the car radio yesterday. And I couldn’t help thinking of the savagery and hysteria with which Julia Gillard was attacked after she mentioned, in passing, to a women-only crowd at a private function that if the Abbott government got in then the hard-won reforms to women’s reproductive freedoms in this country would be under threat. As Tracy Spicer says: we must remain vigilant.
-Kerryn Goldsworthy

Dear Brodie,

There’s a saying in the legal profession that “Hard cases make bad law”. The tragedy which happened to you and Zoe is a hard case, and Zoe’s Law is a bad law.

This will sound harsh, and you’d probably feel like slapping me if I was here in front of you, but you don’t know me and I have no need for you to like me. So I’m telling you what you need to hear, not what you want to hear.

It’s always a danger when making new punitive laws that there will be injustices in the application of those laws which weren’t foreseen when the law was drafted. But Brodie, in the case of “Zoe’s law”, the potential bad outcomes for women are clear to everyone and have been repeatedly pointed out to you.

I wish I could do or say something to make you feel better apart from the law you’ve chosen to give you “closure”. Opposition to Zoe’s Law is nothing to do with “desensitisation to your accident“, as you claim. But laws aren’t made to make someone feel better, no matter how worthy. I know you want an acknowledgement of Zoe and her precious value to you. But is this the memorial you want for her – the baby whose death touched off an important decline in women’s reproductive rights in Australia? Is that how you want her to be remembered?

Because that is what it will be. You can claim all you like that the law will only apply in narrow circumstances, but in fact, as you’ve been told many times, this will establish an important legal precedent for a US-style Foetal Personhood principle. If implemented it would erode a huge chunk from women’s reproductive autonomy. There are people just waiting for it to happen so that they can take it to the next level. The proposed new law would make it easier for them.

Please, Brodie, listen the the AMA, the obstetricians, the Bar Association, and the reproductive rights organisations who have fought for our rights for generations. They know what they are talking about.

If Zoe had been born alive, you would be embarking on a couple of decades of sacrifice as a parent. You’d give up many things which you yearn for in order to give her the things she needed. Maybe your best memorial to Zoe is to be that tough parent and sacrifice your wish for personal vindication through a law which damages others, for the sake of the Zoes yet to be born.

Your case is a hard case. It’s the hardest for you and your family, and Zoe’s Law 2 is a bad law.

Comments (5) »

  • iODyne says:

    lovely piece on a sad situation Ms Balcony. While I have intense sympathy for Brodie I do wonder if she cannot assuage her grief by making a civil case against that witless driver, for the immense damage to her own soul.
    If it was me, I would like to explain robustly, in public, to said Witless Driver exactly how much pain I was in due to their failure to see the longterm effect of their selfish delinquency on other innocent people. Oh! full circle.

  • Helen says:

    That’s why I think some kind of restorative justice is vital in this case. I don’t know enough about the progress of Brodie’s case to know whether any such process has been followed.

  • Marilyn says:

    A lot of pregnant mothers emotionally see their fetuses as babies, as children, and when something like this happens, they are devastated and often can’t see beyond their grief.

  • iODyne says:

    Marilyn I agree with your comment. I would be happier with everything about women and babymaking being a closed shop, Secret Women’s Business, with no church or government male able to influence any of it (except in a helpful way).
    I would be really happy if all the Xavier O’Tools who write To The Editor about fœtal ‘rights’ would instead turn their passion to rounding up all the absent fathers, all the emotionally-nomadic inseminators, and forcing them to face the responsibility in a way as intensive as the mother who lives with a 3-kilo reminder in her abdomen.
    Unlike the Xavier O’Tools, my understanding of this woman and her grief is as real to me as was the loss of my own infant in 1968. She justifiably wants blood, but what she needs is much better counselling than she has had, and to not affect the lives of thousands of other women.

  • eilish says:

    Ms. Donegan isn’t listening. She’s going to campaign for another version of the law if this one doesn’t pass.

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