28 Sep 2022

Birthing injuries now included in ACC cover after bill passes

6:31 am on 28 September 2022
medical professional holding pregant woman's hand

An amendment to the Accident Compensation Act will expand ACC cover to birthing injuries from 1 October 2022. Photo: 123RF

More women and birthing parents will now receive cover from ACC if they suffer an injury during childbirth.

The Accident Compensation (Maternal Birth Injury and Other Matters) Amendment Bill has passed its third reading at Parliament, and expands ACC cover to birthing injuries.

ACC Minister Carmel Sepuloni said the bill improved the gender balance, fairness, and equity of the ACC scheme.

"The bill's approach to covering maternal birth injuries is the best approach in ensuring birthing parents have the support they need to recover as quickly as possible in what will already be a time of great change in their lives," she told the House.

Sepuloni referred to an article by RNZ's Anusha Bradley which shone a light on injuries experienced by women during childbirth, and their struggle for treatment.

"It was a distressing read, but I instantly knew that this was something that needed to change."

Carmel Sepuloni

ACC minister Carmel Sepuloni. File photo. Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

More than 70 percent of women may suffer from an injury during labour or birth.

The bill adds specific categories of birth injuries, such as prolapses, tears, and dislocations.

It is estimated the bill will help 28,000 parents a year.

Green Party ACC spokesperson Jan Logie would like to have seen more general cover, as well as injuries to babies (something also called for by National and ACT), and standalone cover for mental injuries.

But she said it was still a day to celebrate.

"Today is a milestone, that birthing parents, women in this situation from October 1st will be able to reach out and get support they need to prevent many of these consequential impacts in terms of their mobility, in terms of their relationships, in terms of their ability to parent, the integrity of their body and life choices. This is hugely significant," she said.

It has been nearly 50 years since ACC legislation was first passed in the house. Many of the MP's remarked how the language was outdated, referring to women as housewives.

"It was certainly written for a time and in a language that reflected the attitudes of the day," National MP Michael Woodhouse said.

"Times have changed, and this is an appropriate change to the legislation."

The bill is not retrospective, which means people who have already suffered injuries will not be covered. Instead, it only covers anyone who gives birth from 1 October 2022.

National MP Erica Stanford thanked everyone who sent submissions to the Education and Workforce Select Committee, especially the 46 people who submitted to the select committee in-person, acknowledging their submissions even though they would not receive the benefits of the bill.

"It was very personal, and very gruelling for some of those women who needed to go into quite graphic detail in front of strangers at the select committee. And their bravery needs to be acknowledged, because actually that graphic detail was really important for the deliberations of the bill," she said.

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National MP Erica Stanford. File photo. Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

Labour MP Sarah Pallett, a midwife, is not a member of the select committee, but her experience as a midwife meant she was often consulted on the bill. She praised the bill's inclusive language.

"The vast majority will be women, but we must remember in this conversation that non-binary, transgender, and other gender-diverse folk also give birth and it's really important we continue to acknowledge that in this house," she said.

The bill also makes five policy changes to the Accident Compensation Act (including reducing the threshold for accessing injury-related hearing loss cover from 6 percent hearing loss to 5 percent), and seven technical changes.

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