There is so much to write about at the moment. Histopathology is my new word for the day - I promise I will explain why soon. But having harassed the media again in the last 24 hours with a letter to the editor, I feel like I need to explain that first.
Nancy Asani lost her unborn child at 38 weeks. Photo: Luis Enrique Ascui
We, or rather, Zainab, got a vague mention in the paper on Monday. It was in an article about Nancy Asani, a woman who was 38 weeks pregnant (also with a little daughter) when someone driving without their headlights on ploughed into her car, injuring her and killing her baby, named Meriem. (It feels so strange to know that someone has gone through something so similar to our accident - horrible that anyone else should have to go through it, but also some weird fellow-feeling - knowing that we're not the only ones. I think I will try and contact Nancy at some stage when we feel up for it).
Like the driver who caused our accident, the person responsible for Meriem's death could only be charged with "dangerous driving causing grievous bodily harm" - ie in respect of the injury to Nancy. This was ten years ago, and since then Nancy has been campaigning to have the law changed so that causing the death of an unborn child counts as "dangerous driving causing death" - as is the case in other states such as NSW. I'm not sure if she would pick a gestational age when a foetus's is deemed to count as a "death" - that is probably a tricky question. I'm not sure how I'd want the law to work exactly, but I do think that this is much more than just an injury to the mother - or rather it is a particularly huge and future-destroying injury which might need its own special category.
The article linked Nancy's story to ours, and to that of the poor woman who had an accident about a week after ours and (this makes me weep even harder) lost both her baby and her husband.
I was okay with that linkage, and we would support Nancy's campaign, but the bit which made me throw stuff and fly into furious fits of letter-writing was this:
Australian Family Association spokesman John Morrisey said the inconsistencies in the state's laws appeared to exist because of ''fairly permissive abortion laws''.
This was my letter:
Letter to the Editor
27 January 2010
One month ago (thought it feels like another lifetime ago), I was 34 weeks pregnant and was driving home with my family. A 4WD hit us head-on, and (among our other injuries) caused my placenta to abrupt and killed my little daughter before she was born. I was so sad to read (“Mother vows to fight on for law change over road death of unborn child” The Age 25 Jan 2010) that Nancy Asani suffered a similar loss in December 1999, and that another woman also lost her baby this “holiday” period.
We would support Nancy in her campaign to have the law changed to recognise that dangerous driving causing the death of an unborn baby is not just an injury to the mother. It was an injury to me, but in a much more profound way than my other injuries. Our baby, had she been delivered before the accident, would have had excellent prospects of survival – she was already 2.5kg (around 5 lbs) and 48cm long. I can’t put into words what we have lost and what she has lost.
What I find offensive is that anyone could try and twist our tragedy into some kind of argument against safe, legal abortion. John Morrissey, spokesman for the “Australian Family Association” has done this in your article on Monday. How dare he try to appropriate our loss and turn it to his own political / religious ends. We were lucky not to be in a position where we had to consider abortion, but I have had a number of friends who have been in that awful position, and it is not something any woman considers lightly. Women are not stupid – we know that pregnancy is the process of turning a potential life into a living breathing child. That is what makes our loss so heart-breaking. To try and draw some connection between abortion laws and recognition of my and Nancy’s loss as a loss of life is offensive and ignorant.
I was lazy and once I'd gone to the effort to write the letter, and found out that letters are generally only accepted if they are under 200 words, I couldn't face editing it and submitted it anyway. When I mentioned to my dad why I was so antsy about him bringing over the paper this morning, he warned me they probably wouldn't publish it. Thankfully, they decided to publish it, and did the editing for me. The published version is here, (you'll need to scroll down, my letter is the fourth one down).
ASIDE THE FIRST... How is it that a homophobic, ... organisation which opposes IVF, contraception, abortion and sex education has somehow snaffled the neutral-sounding title of "Australian Family Association"? If you cut out all the families which the AFA don't count as "family" - ie those who have divorced or never married, single mums, same sex families, families who are not related by blood or legal adoption, then how many families are you really left with? And why do journos bother consulting them about anything family-related (in the genuine, rather than the prejudiced sense of the word)?
ASIDE THE SECOND... I still don't really understand why people who kill others on the road get charged with "dangerous driving causing death" rather than manslaughter. Why is there a distinction (and a lighter sentence) just because the weapon of killing was a car rather than any other implement or poison? My suspicion (and this may have been explained to me by someone once - criminal law is not my area) is that governments felt the need to introduce specific offences because juries would consistently not convict these people of manslaughter.
Why? Because (nearly) everyone drives, and most of us, if we are honest, would acknowledge that we have our moments when we are crappy drivers. Or angry, poorly controlled drivers. Or tired or attention-deprived drivers, even if we don't fall in the significant proportion of the population who also drink drive or speed. And because we've built our worlds around having cars, these death machines have become an essential part of our ordinary lives - as have our patchy abilities to control them. But still - why should manslaughter using a motor vehicle be in a different category than manslaughter using any of the other necessary but deadly tools / substances we use in our ordinary lives?