Does a father have the right to be in a delivery room when his child is born if he has since split from the woman whom he got pregnant?
No, according to a judge in New Jersey this week.
Superior Court Judge Sohail Mohammed said all patients enjoy strong privacy protections that give them the sole authority to decide who is at their bedside.
“Any interest a father has before the child’s birth is subordinate to the mother’s interests,” Mohammed wrote in his opinion, according to the Newark Star Ledger. “Even when there is no doubt that a father has shown deep and proper concern and interest in the growth and development of the fetus, the mother is the one who must carry it to term.”
The mother’s privacy rights won the day, the judge wrote, because of a pair of landmark U.S. Supreme Court decisions on abortion — Roe v. Wade from 1973 and Planned Parenthood v. Casey from 1992. The high court established in those rulings that an expectant mother has a stronger right over her body and over her unborn child than the father. A court majority in Casey ruled that women are not even required to tell their spouses about abortions, Mohammed noted.
The New Jersey Supreme Court has also struck down a law requiring that minors notify their parents before they get abortions, ruling in 2000 that the law infringed on those minors’ privacy rights.
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 judge made the ruling on the day the baby was born in November, but it wasn’t publicly released until this week.
The father did not appeal the ruling because he’s been allowed to see his child, which he says is all he really wanted in the first place.