Proposed laws under which babies could be taken from drug-addicted mothers at birth could further victimise already vulnerable women, the NSW opposition says.
Under the planned laws pregnant women who abuse drugs or alcohol will have to sign Parental Responsibility Contracts (PRC).
This will enable expectant mothers to access rehabilitation services before giving birth and if they refuse to seek treatment, it will make it easier for courts to remove the child.
Women who are subjected to domestic violence will also be covered in the proposed laws, which are awaiting final approval from Cabinet before being submitted to parliament, News Limited reported on Sunday.
Abused pregnant women will be asked to sign PRCs ordering them to leave their partner, move to a relative’s home or attend domestic violence counselling.
And if they renege on the conditions of the PRC, their child will be taken and placed in the care of the state.
NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell told Sky News 1300 babies were born addicted to heroin in 2012.
‘It’s crazy that we can take the child once it’s born away from the mother and not provide some priority counselling to the parent before the child is born to try and get rid of the addiction,’ he said.
But opposition deputy leader and families spokeswoman Linda Burney told AAP the legislation would not offer enough support for those women who could have their babies taken away, adding it could further victimise women who are already vulnerable.
‘If it is just a penalty system that generally won’t work,’ she told AAP on Sunday.
‘There has to be state involvement in the protection of child protection but it can’t be punitive.
Labor will ‘look at the legislation carefully to see whether there are aspects of the legislation (it) can support,’ she added.
This article first appeared on ‘Sky News’ on 17 November 2013.