Maree (ms_maree) wrote in ontd_political,

Mother vows to fight for law change over death of unborn child

This is from Victoria, Australia, I found it sad, but also it made me wonder about how laws worldwide deal with unborn children. Should they change the law to recognise them as people if they are killed unlawfully?

I don't know how other nations deal with this at all.

EVERY second Sunday, Nancy Asani visits the grave of the daughter she never saw alive.

Meriem was killed in December 1999 when another driver - without headlights on - crashed into a pregnant Ms Asani's car while driving along St Albans Road.

Ten years on, the pain has lessened - but she never forgets. ''My world had shattered; there's just no other feeling like it,'' Ms Asani said this week. ''It's hard, it's still very, very hard. You sit there and say 'Oh my God, she'd be 10 now.'

''You never, ever forget what you had to go through.''

The driver responsible for killing Meriem - almost 38 weeks - could not be charged with her death; instead, he was charged only with causing injury to her mother.

''She was fully formed; there was nothing that needed to be developed with her any more,'' Ms Asani said. ''Being so far into the pregnancy, she could have been born four weeks prior to the accident and been OK.''

In 2001, the driver was sentenced to 12 months' jail, suspended for two years, and fined $2500.

During the 2009-2010 holiday period, at least two unborn babies were killed on the state's roads - one at 19 weeks, the other at 34 weeks.

A man has been charged with dangerous driving causing serious injury over the death of the 34-week foetus.

Victorian law does not recognise a foetus as a child until it has taken breath. But foetuses killed in car crashes that are more than 20 weeks are counted towards the state's road toll.

However, in NSW, drivers who cause mothers to lose their unborn children can now be charged with the baby's death, after Renee Shields campaigned to have the law changed following the death of her unborn son, Byron, in a car crash.

In a 2004 discussion paper, the Victorian Government asked whether deaths of unborn babies, capable of being born alive, in road collisions should come within the scope of culpable driving causing death, or other new offences.

That review resulted in the introduction of the offences of dangerous driving causing death or serious injury, but nothing to cover the death of unborn babies on the road.

Ms Asani, who had hoped the new law could be called Meriem's Law, found it difficult when the State Government refused to change the laws, despite her submission to the 2004 review.

''[A change in the law] would mean a lot. It's a mother's worst nightmare and to know that he's walking away scot-free, it just really kills you,'' she said. ''I've lost 40, 50 years of my daughter's life. It would mean a huge, huge deal to me to have that law changed. My time's gone, we can't do anything about what's happened to my daughter … [but] the recent ones, my heart goes out to those mothers.''

Australian Childhood Foundation chief executive Joe Tucci said the discrepancy between Victorian and NSW law showed why there should be nationally consistent laws in relation to children.

He said it did not make sense that unborn babies were treated as a child from 20 weeks for the road toll but not for being a victim of a road collision.

Australian Family Association spokesman John Morrisey said the inconsistencies in the state's laws appeared to exist because of ''fairly permissive abortion laws''. He supported a new law to cover the death of unborn babies in road collisions. ''An unborn baby, we all know, is no different really from a baby who was delivered maybe two days later and equipped with a birth certificate. It's nonsense to distinguish between the two,'' he said.

Legal commentator and author Peter Faris, QC, agreed there was a gap in the legislation that did not make sense.

''Just making it injury to the mother doesn't adequately cover the situation,'' he said. ''There could be some argument as to causation.''

But John Voyage, principal at law firm Maurice Blackburn, would not support new laws that were "an increase in police powers". He said existing laws were adequate.

Attorney-General Rob Hulls agreed. ''We believe the current laws relating to culpable and dangerous driving are appropriate.'' Ms Asani disagrees. She is continuing to encourage a change in the law.

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