Zoe's law introduced to NSW parliament

·2-min read

When a drug-affected driver smashed in Brodie Donegan on Christmas Day in 2009, the death of her unborn daughter Zoe was simply listed as one of her injuries.

"It just didn't seem fair," she said.

"I just couldn't reconcile how Zoe was listed with ... my broken bones and there wasn't sort of ... any acknowledgement of what we actually lost."

Current laws recognise the loss of a fetus as an injury to the mother but proposed new laws will create a separate offence for killing an unborn child and increase penalties for offenders.

After 12 "tiring" and often "frustrating" years of advocacy, an emotional Ms Donegan said the bill finally recognised the loss of a baby as more than an injury.

"We were only a few weeks away from meeting her," she told reporters on Wednesday.

"You've already imagined, being eight months pregnant, that you're having this child and they're going to school and you start decorating nurseries and things.

"There was a whole lot of emotion there that I didn't feel was reflected in what went through the courts."

After introducing the bill to parliament on Wednesday, Attorney-General Mark Speakman said the reform had been a long time coming.

The bill creates two new offences - one for crimes where the mother survives and another applying to crimes where the mother is killed - which will increase the maximum penalty for offenders by three years.

"Dangerous driving occasioning grievous bodily harm at the moment, for example, carries a maximum penalty of seven years," Mr Speakman said.

Under the new offence, the maximum penalty will be 10 years if there's been a loss of a fetus.

"It's about making sure the criminal law and the criminal justice process reflects and recognises the loss the Brodie Donegan's of the world and their families have suffered."

The government faced many challenges in drafting the bill, which grapples with how to define the life of an unborn child, including debate around how it may affect abortion laws.

"I'm personally sorry, that has taken so long to get here," he said to Ms Donegan.

Mr Speakman hopes the laws will come into effect early next year.

"I don't know what the reaction of the opposition and the cross bench will be but I'm very hopeful it'll go through both houses of parliament," he said.

The reforms also include changes that will allow immediate family members to make victim impact statements in court, instead of just the mother, and will allow families to claim funeral expenses for any unborn children killed in a car accident.

Families may also be eligible for a $3000 bereavement payment for counselling and support.

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