The Wagga Women's Health Centre (WWHC) has defended itself against claims that it is "not genuinely concerned with women's health".
In a letter to the editor, published below, Louise Bayley told The Daily Advertiser the WWHC's "true colours have been shown and its benefactors should reconsider their support for this agency".
Ms Bayley attacked WWHC for lobbying against Zoe's Law, legislation that would see an unborn foetus older than 20 weeks defined as a "separate living entity".
Zoe's Law, which has passed the lower house with the support of politicians including member for Wagga Daryl Maguire, originated from tragedy.
In 2009, Brodie Donegan was 30 weeks pregnant with a healthy baby, Zoe, when she was hit by a drug-affected driver, sustaining massive injuries.
Although Ms Donegan recovered, her baby did not, failing to make it out of the womb alive and forcing Ms Donegan to register her as a stillborn.
Distressed at the lack of recognition her unborn child received on medical documentation, Ms Donegan was horrified the perpetrator was charged with grievous bodily harm, receiving a nine-month jail term.
While Ms Donegan claimed she was pro-choice and did not want the legislation to impact abortion laws, many groups are concerned.
Women's Health NSW chief Denele Crozier said Zoe's Law caused a conflict with current laws.
She said her main problem was with the wording of the law, which suggested a foetus was an independent being.
"It gives the foetus equal rights," Ms Crozier said.
Women’s Health NSW is part of a alliance of organisations that are opposed to the bill.
The alliance argues the current laws – which recognise grievous bodily harm inflicted on foetuses – are enough.
Ms Crozier said the alliance had tried to negotiate the phrase that identified the foetus as an independent being – to no avail.
“I don’t think anyone who works in the medical profession would say that determining a foetus as a separate living entity is appropriate language,” she said.
She said passing such legislation would complicate issues and could be the start of a slippery slope.
Defending the organisation, president of the WWHC committee Helen Mundy said the letter was simply not true.
Ms Mundy said the organisation was pro-choice and did not want to see women’s rights impeded.
“We are very up front about our philosophy.
“The law is unnecessary.”
WWHC manager Gail Meyer said she believed current legislation was adequate, given the maximum penalty of 25 years would not change if Zoe’s Law was passed.
“We advocate choice for women,” Ms Meyer said.
“We felt that the existing laws were adequate and appropriate. We lobby the government at all levels about issues to do with women’s health.
“We would invite anyone seeking clarity to contact the centre.”
In a letter addressed to the legislative assembly, NSW Bar Association president Phillip Boulten said that adoption of this bill would “have obvious implications for late-term abortions, not withstanding the explicit limitations in the Bill relating to medical procedures".
Mr Maguire said it was unlikely the bill would make it through, saying he had thought long and hard about the bill before making a decision.
The letter from Louise Bayley
I would like to congratulate our local member Daryl Maguire for voting in support of the proposed Zoe's Law when it was debated and passed in the NSW lower house last year.
Thankfully, a large number of Labor and Liberal MPs supported it, although the Greens have been stridently opposed to it.
Zoe's Law aims to recognise the harm done to a woman who loses her unborn baby that is at least 20 weeks old or 400 grams, through the recklessness or negligence of another person.
The proposed law is therefore in the interests of supporting women's health and ensuring justice.
The NSW Premier's remarks at the time reflected this position when he said, ''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. That is justice".
Mr Maguire should be applauded for taking the stance he did.
However, it was very disappointing to observe that in his brief statement to the parliament, Mr Maguire referred to the lobbying he had experienced from the Wagga Women's Health Centre to oppose Zoe's Law.
Why would a women's health centre oppose a law that supports women's health?
The only possible answer to this question is that the Wagga Women's Health Centre is so vehemently in favour of abortion that any proposed law which is perceived by the centre as a threat to a woman's access to abortion, must be opposed, even when that law is exclusively for the purpose of supporting women's health at a time when they experience severe physical and emotional trauma.
In opposing a law that promotes and protects women's health, the representatives of the Wagga Women's Health Centre have clearly shown that they are not genuinely concerned with women's health.
Moreover, the large number of people in our community who have given money to this centre based upon the mistaken belief that it seeks to advance women's health, have clearly been deceived.
The Wagga Women's Health Centre's true colours have been shown and its benefactors should reconsider their support for this agency, whose position is actually more aligned to the radical Greens rather the values of the mainstream community.