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Birthing Moms Can Kick Dads Out of Delivery Room: N.J. Court

By Aditi Mukherji, JD on March 13, 2014 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

In the first ever ruling of its kind, a New Jersey judge ruled that a woman in labor has the right to ban an unwed father from the delivery room.

The case -- argued the day the mother went into labor (!) -- stemmed from an estranged couple who called off their wedding prior to the birth of their child. Steven Plotnick sued his ex-fiancée Rebecca DeLuccia for the right to know when she went into labor and for access to the baby upon its birth, The Star-Ledger reports.

Though the child has since been born (in case you're wondering: pops was present at the birth), Superior Court Judge Sohail Mohammed ruled in favor of the mother.

Mother's Interests > Father's Interests

"Any interest a father has before the child's birth is subordinate to the mother's interests," Mohammed wrote. According to the Star-Ledger, Mohammed arrived at this conclusion by relying on two landmark Supreme Court cases on abortion rights: Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey.

In those rulings, the judge reasoned, the Supreme Court established that a pregnant woman enjoys robust privacy rights and has a stronger right over her unborn child than the father. In Casey, for example, the majority ruled that women are not required to tell their spouses about abortions.

"In light of the court rulings," Mohammed wrote, "it strains logic to ask a pregnant woman to notify the father when she goes into labor," the Star-Ledger reports.

At bottom, Mohammed cited a patient's right to privacy and a pregnant woman's right to control her body. He ruled an unwanted presence at the woman's bedside could pose "unwarranted strain" on the mother and harm the fetus.

One major case in New Jersey seems to follow in step with that general line of reasoning. In 2000, the New Jersey Supreme Court struck down a law requiring minors to notify their parents before obtaining abortions, ruling that the law violated those minors' privacy rights.

This delivery room court battle appears to be the first of its kind in the nation. Disputes between two unwed parents over who can be present at the child's birth "have never been litigated in New Jersey or the United States," Mohammed wrote.

The New Jersey ruling applies only to biological fathers not married to the mother. But that's still a big deal. According to NPR, more than 40 percent of births in the U.S. occur outside of marriage.

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