The bereavement gap: grief, human dignity and legal personhood in the debate over Zoe’s Law Academic Article uri icon


  • A Bill before the New South Wales Parliament attempted to re-frame harm to late-term fetuses as grievous bodily harm to the fetus itself rather than (under the existing law) grievous bodily harm to the mother. To achieve this, the Bill extended legal personhood to the fetus for a limited number of offences. The Bill was brought on behalf of Brodie Donegan, who lost her daughter Zoe at 32 weeks' gestation when Donegan was hit by a drug-affected driver. This article asks what the perspective of a grieving mother can bring to the debate, in terms of helping the criminal law accurately come to grips with the complexity of pregnancy and the specific harm of fetal loss. It assesses the likely impacts of a change to fetal personhood and suggests an alternative legislative approach which is less likely to result in an erosion of bodily autonomy for pregnant women.

publication date

  • December 2014