The New South Wales Parliament’s Lower House has voted overwhelmingly in favour of a law to recognise foetuses as living people.
The Crimes Amendment Bill, also known as Zoe’s Law, passed 63 to 26 and will now go to the Upper House to be debated next year.
MPs were given a conscience vote on the legislation, which would apply to foetuses that have reached 20 weeks gestation or weigh at least 400 grams.
Zoe’s Law is named after the unborn child lost by Brodie Donegan in 2009 when she was hit by a car eight months into her pregnancy.
The driver could not be charged over the death of the foetus.
Ms Donegan took to Twitter after the vote was taken to offer her thanks.
“Loads of mixed emotions! Most importantly we can keep having the debate and conversation!” she tweeted.
Liberal MP Chris Spence, who introduced the bill, told Parliament the law was not about curtailing abortion rights.
“This bill will not involve prosecutions in relation to lawful abortion procedures and treatments,” he said.
“I understand many members have grappled with making their personal decision on whether they will support this bill and I commend those who have truly sought to weight up all sides of the debate.”
But the legislation was opposed by the majority of female frontbenchers in the Upper House.
Labor MP Carmel Tebbutt said before the final vote that not enough had been done to ensure the protection of women’s reproductive rights, despite amendments to the bill.
“In other jurisdictions recognising the foetus as an independent person has been the first step towards prosecutions of women where they are deemed to have acted contrary to the interest of the foetus they are carrying,” Ms Tebbutt told Parliament.
“I note that the Bar Association has indicated that it does not believe these amendments address its previously outlined concerns.”
Premier Barry O’Farrell said before the vote he would be supporting the bill because he had been moved by Ms Donegan’s circumstances.
“I support it also because if a pregnant woman is knocked down, if there is not only injury to her but death of a baby that might be eight months in the womb, clearly there should be recognition of that within our court system,” he told Parliament.
“That is justice.”