In what is being described as a landmark ruling and a hit to the rights of fathers, a New Jersey judge has decided that an expectant mother is not obligated to tell the putative father of her child when she goes into labor, and she can also block him from being in the delivery room.
The New Jersey Law Journal reported Monday that Superior Court Judge Sohail Mohammed handed down the ruling in Plotnick v. DeLuccia, a dispute between estranged unmarried parents. Mohammed argued that a woman can shut out the father of her child based on her right to privacy and to control her body during pregnancy.
"A finding in favor of plaintiff for both notification and forced entry into the delivery room would in fact be inconsistent with existing jurisprudence on the interests of women in the children they carry pre-birth," wrote Mohammed in his opinion Monday.
"It would create practical concerns where the father's unwelcomed presence could cause additional stress on the mother and child. Moreover, such a finding would also lead to a slippery slope where the mother's interest could be subjugated to that of the father's," continued the judge.
He further explained that his research revealed that the issue had never been considered in a U.S. court.
"The issues of whether a putative father has a right to be notified when a woman enters labor, and whether a father has a right to be present at the child's birth over the mother's objection, have never been litigated in New Jersey or the United States," he said.
The father, Steven Plotnick, reportedly began a relationship Rebecca DeLuccia in late 2012 and discovered she was pregnant in February 2013. Plotnick proposed to her and she accepted; but a few months later in September they ended the relationship and got lawyers to negotiate how Plotnick would be involved in the pregnancy and the child's life after birth.
Plotnick filed an order seeking to be notified when DeLuccia went into labor and be present at the delivery and other relief in November as DeLuccia neared her due date. On Nov.19, 2013, Mohammed held a hearing and DeLuccia participated by telephone from a hospital where she had gone into labor. Mohammed denied relief and the baby was delivered the same day.
The judge pointed to "Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973), that women have the right to control their bodies during pregnancy. He also cited Planned Parenthood v. Casey, 505 U.S. 833 (1992), which struck down a state law requiring married women to notify their husbands before having an abortion," noted the report.
Plotnick's lawyer, Laura Nunnick of November & Nunnick in Glen Rock, said she "assumed [fathers] have equal rights to be there" at childbirth, but added that the ruling was "a well-reasoned decision, although I was upset for fathers and their rights."
Plotnick was eventually allowed to see the baby in the nursery.
DeLuccia's lawyer, Joanna Brick, said the ruling correctly focuses on the mother's privacy, pointing out that during childbirth she was "partially naked. Why should she expose herself in the most personal, intimate moment of her life?"