As NSW seeks to protect unborn with "Zoe's law", NT moves to remove restrictions on abortion

The deep contradiction in Australian society which both cherishes children and has more than 80,000 abortions compared to  300,000 live births each year, is clear with two news stories this week.

In NSW a bill to introduce “Zoe’s law” which seeks to punish crimes that cause loss of an unborn foetus, made it onto the floor of parliament after a twelve-year-long campaign. It is named for Zoe, the unborn daughter of Brodie Donegan who was hit by a drunk driver on Christmas Day 2009.

“The police came and spoke to me about the charges that would be laid, and I just didn’t understand how my daughter, who didn’t survive, wasn’t being accounted for in the charges, that she would just be listed in my injuries,” Donegan told the ABC.

“We wanted a separate bill to reflect and acknowledge the loss of the child rather than just be counted as an injury to the mother.”

The police could lay charges regarding Brodie Donegan’s injuries but the driver at fault could not be charged over Zoe Donegan’s death.

Donegan’s struggle to have Zoe’s Law passed was prolonged by opposition from supporters of abortion who felt it could weaken access to late-term abortion. In the meantime, abortion was decriminalised in 2019, and Attorney General Mark Speakman is confident the two laws can exist side by side. The new law will not apply to medical procedures or “anything done by or with the consent of the mother of the unborn child.”

The Bill was proposed by Fred Nile of the Christian Democratic Party, and it has now gained the support of the coalition government.

The Crimes Amendment (Zoes Law) Bill 2019 will add three years to a sentence when a foetus is killed during a crime. The law specifically covers the actions of a reckless or dangerous driver –the circumstance that killed Zoe Donegan – but extends to any reckless conduct that causes the destruction of a fetus (with the limitation mentioned above). This would include assault by a domestic partner, as Eternity reads the law.

The Northern Territory has introduced amendments to make late-term abortions easier to obtain. At present abortion after 23 weeks is only permissible if the mother’s life is at stake. If the law is passed late-term abortions will be lawful with the support of two doctors.

Australian Christian Lobby’s National Director, Politics, Wendy Francis responds to the new NT law for Eternity: 

I have never personally been in a position where I needed to contemplate having an abortion. As a young woman, I had incredibly supportive, godly, loving parents. I have never been abandoned by my husband. But I have walked and talked with many women who have experienced the pain of abortion, and my heart breaks for them. Many of them have travelled a dark path. What these young women, experiencing an unexpected, unwanted, unhappy pregnancy, wanted and needed was real options, true choice. And this is not what they were given.

Following the lead of other Australian States, the Northern Territory has ignored the real needs of young Territorian women, and instead tabled an alarming and dangerous bill that would see viable babies killed for reasons that include sex-selection.

The Termination of Pregnancy Law Reform Legislation Amendment Bill 2021 tabled by Health Minister Natasha Fyles on 27 October to allow late-term abortion after 24 weeks with no upper limit and without any public consultation is especially heinous when you consider that medical advances have meant that pre-born babies are now considered able to survive from 23 weeks gestation. This is a brutal and callous bill. For the baby, for the mother, for the medical practitioners and other staff.

The Northern Territory has the highest tuberculosis rate of all Australian jurisdictions. The burden of rheumatic heart disease in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is also very high. Legislation to allow abortion to birth is not what Territorians want from their Health Minister. It is far from an urgent issue. But they haven’t been asked.

Across Australia, the Northern Territory has the highest proportion of Indigenous residents among its population—an estimated 31%. You would think that First Nations Elders would be consulted. This is not the case. Instead, politicians listen to lawyers based in inner-city Melbourne and Sydney who argue for abortion in the Northern Territory to be available at any stage of pregnancy. They claim this is in step with community values, but they are not listening to the community. The NT government campaigned on a platform of transparency and yet they have introduced abortion to birth legislation without an inquiry or any public consultation.

Aboriginal activist, and 2015 Northern Territory Australian of the Year, Rosalie Kunoth-Monks AOM, is a proud Apunaga Elder who lives on her Utopia homeland in the Northern Territory. She is a well known outspoken advocate for Indigenous people and for defending their traditional way of life, which includes expressing her concerns regarding the Territory’s abortion legislation, in particular for the impact on the welfare of Aboriginal women. Traditionally, First Nations young women have been against abortion on principle, seeing the need to have access to abortion as a colonial attitude. Academics have gone so far as to suggest that reproduction regulation (particularly abortion) is inextricably linked with white nationalism. Family planning and contraception have traditionally been viewed as institutions of suspicion for Indigenous women.

Of course, it is not only First Nation women affected by this brutal legislation in the Northern Territory. It is every mother, father, grandparent and child. With advances in technology now able to show third-trimester babies experiencing pain, reacting to their mother’s voice and touch, as well as music, opinion is shifting against late-term abortion being just like any other operation. In a 2018 You Gov Galaxy poll conducted in Queensland 73% of those surveyed opposed late-term abortion past 23 weeks.

Despite this, when something is legalised, it is seen as being acceptable. The feeling seems to be, if it’s legal, it must be ok. And so, where late-term abortion has been legalised, we find statistics such as in Victoria, where, the practice increased by 39%.

Which leads to another tragic outcome which is occurring at an increasing rate in Australia. That of late-term aborted babies surviving the abortion process, and being left to die. Those who have lived in the Territory for some time would most likely be aware of an infamous case of this that was escalated to the coroner.

Taking any innocent life is wrong. Killing an unborn child who can survive independently is barbaric. We can do better. God expects us to speak up for the vulnerable. We should take comfort and also courage from the fact that God says in Jeremiah 1:5 “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you”. He knows and loves each one of us. And he knows and loves every single baby.


Some prayer points to help

Pray that the tide will turn on abortion