When the woman in this case decided that she did not want the father of her child in the delivery room with her, she may not have realized she was making new law. She was simply a mother-to-be who had broken up with her fiance shortly after she learned she was pregnant.
She knew he was the father, and she told the court that she would be amendable to him being notified when she went into labor, even to have him in a room adjacent to the delivery room so he could hold the newborn. She just didn’t want him in the delivery room.
As we mentioned in our last post, she has helped to add a new dimension to how New Jersey’s courts interpret and protect a woman’s liberty interests and right to privacy. In some ways, the decision blends HIPAA’s provisions governing the privacy of an individual’s health care information with the woman’s liberty interest in the birth of the child.
So, the court said that because it is the mother who carries the child, it is the mother’s right to decide who may and may not be with her during delivery. Furthermore, as the U.S. Supreme Court noted in one of the cases relied on here, this is true even if the couple is husband and wife.
For father’s rights advocates, the decision is a setback. With more couples choosing to have children outside of marriage, the court may have made it more difficult for fathers to be involved, to bond with the child at a critical stage. The ruling could very well undercut any progress advocates have made in advancing the rights of fathers to be more than support checks. We’ll just have to wait and see if other courts rely on this decision to deny fathers custody, visitation or a meaningful role in his child’s upbringing.
The mother in this case did allow the plaintiff, the father of her child, to hold the baby.
On another note, the court also held that “Paternity of a child cannot be simply established by placing a man’s name on a birth certificate because a birth certificate does not constitute a legal finding of parentage, nor does it create rights.” How this will affect existing New Jersey law is a subject for another post on another day.
The Christian Science Monitor, “N.J. judge cites women’s rights in barring unwed dad from child’s birth,” Patrik Jonsson, March 12, 2014
Plotnick v. Deluccia, 2013 WL 7869380, N.J.Super.Ch., 2013 via Westlaw