Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day

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SpeakersHancock Mrs Shelley; Deputy-Speaker
BusinessPrivate Members Statements, PRIV

Page: 10563
Mrs SHELLEY HANCOCK (South Coast) [5.38 p.m.]: Madam Deputy-Speaker, I congratulate you sincerely on your promotion. This evening I rise to support the establishment of a pregnancy and infant loss remembrance day in New South Wales, preferably on 15 October each year, as is the case in Canada and the United States. It is interesting and at the same time disturbing to note that 32 per cent of pregnancies end in loss and that one in four women in New South Wales have suffered a miscarriage. Not only does each woman who has lost a child grieve this loss, but so also do her partner, family, siblings and friends. For those women who have suffered a loss, such as my constituent Mrs Nicole Ballinger, recognition is important as part of the healing process. It should be noted that the statistics for pregnancy and infant loss are perhaps higher than most people would expect.
In the developed world an estimated 500,000 miscarriages occur, the vast majority of which have unexplained causes; one in every 148 babies is stillborn, with 73 per cent unexplained; 1 per cent of all reported abortions are conducted strictly because of significant foetal abnormalities; and one in every 2,000 babies dies from sudden infant death syndrome. The tragedy of the statistics is compounded by the fact that many of the deaths of these babies could have been prevented with prenatal screening. For instance, vasa praevia is a condition where the mother often shows no symptoms at all. One in every 2,500 births results in stillbirth due to severe haemorrhaging caused by vasa praevia. Its infant mortality rate is 95 per cent, yet when the condition is prenatally diagnosed using ultrasound technology the survival rate is 100 per cent.

One in three pregnancies will end in loss and of course the grief that follows is often suffered in silence as those who have suffered may feel a sense of guilt or feel that society has judged the mothers as somehow responsible, largely due to ignorance and prejudice. Mrs Ballinger, who has suffered four miscarriages due to a blighted ovum, has not only suffered the losses but also felt the judgement of others and the inability of others to provide comfort due to their own empathy. There is also an expectation that women who suffer miscarriage will soon recover from their loss and simply try again to conceive successfully.

The DEPUTY-SPEAKER: Order! I call the member for Miranda to order.

Mrs SHELLEY HANCOCK: I am informed that for many women the sense of grief and loss following miscarriage is intense, prolonged, agonising and exacerbated just by the sight of new babies, pregnant women and families. In other cultures, such as Japan, the grief of pregnancy and infant loss is acknowledged and supported with special temples and shrines devoted specifically to honouring Japan's tiniest angels. In the Shinto faith there is also the Ojizo-san, a God who protects unborn babies. Statues of the Ojizo-san adorn these temples as well as private homes and gardens. The grieving in Japan have a place to go to honour their babies and a social standard that is sensitive and caring towards their loss. However, in Australia, silence, guilt, fear and intense grief characterise the long private struggle of each survivor.

Therefore, on behalf of the hundreds of thousands of women in this State and in Australia, I request the Premier consider setting aside 15 October each year as Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day, a day to honour and remember those babies that have been lost. As I stated before, this occurs in Canada and the United States. I also request that he consider the silent suffering of the women for whom the proclamation of this day would be of enormous assistance in their healing process. Finally, I wish to support the efforts of Nicole Ballinger, who has lobbied tenaciously for such a remembrance day to be established in New South Wales, and indeed in Australia as she lobbies our local Federal member, Joanna Gash.

Mrs Ballinger has spoken to me at length about her situation and her grief, and on behalf of others who feel the same grief but suffer so much in silence. She has also provided me with many of the facts cited in my address this evening. They are the basis on which I have addressed this issue and also placed a motion on the Notice Paper for a future debate, which I sincerely hope we can have. I have also written to the Premier requesting that he consider this very simple request. It will not cost a great deal of money but it will help the thousands of women each year who lose babies through miscarriage. They have no understanding of why they have lost the babies but they grieve in silence and often suffer the judgement of others.