This week, a New Jersey judge expanded the rights of pregnant women when he ruled that expectant moms have the right to bar the father of their child from the delivery room.
The ruling, which is the first of its kind in the nation, also stipulates that a pregnant woman who is separated or estranged from her child’s father is under no obligation to inform him if she goes into labor.
Citing privacy issues, Passaic County Superior Court Judge Sohail Mohammed ruled, “A father’s interest in the child pre-birth is not equal to the mother’s interests.”
The decision, which was the result of a case litigated last November, read: “The court further finds that it would be an undue burden on the mother to require her to notify the father when she is in labor or require his presence during labor. It would invade her sphere of privacy and provide unwarranted strain on the mother.”
Judge Mohammed’s ruling stemmed from a contentious matter involving Rebecca DeLuccia and Steven Plotnick. The former couple entered into a relationship in 2012 and DeLuccia became pregnant in February 2013. DeLuccia and Plotnick later got engaged, but by September they had broken up. After their split, Plotnick got a lawyer who drafted a letter to DeLuccia. In turn, she obtained her own lawyer, and the former couple traded multiple correspondences about who would sign the child’s birth certificate and be present at the birth.
In November, Plotnick sued his former fiancé, claiming she refused to let him sign the birth certificate, tell him when she went into labor, and allow him into the birthing room. DeLuccia responded, disputing his claims that she wouldn’t allow him to sign the certificate or inform him when she went labor, but requested that her privacy be respected during delivery and that Plotnick remain out of the room.
The judge agreed, writing, “Any mother is under immense physical and psychological pain during labor. … The order the father seeks would invade her sphere of privacy and force the mother to provide details of her medical condition to a person she does not desire to share that information with.”
Plotnick’s lawyer, Laura Nunnink, said her client never asked to be in the delivery room, but rather be allowed to see the baby as soon as possible after it was born.
“He wanted to be a very involved father from the instant his child was born,” Nunnink told NJ.com. “It was important that he have the right to bond just as the mother would. … It was unfair that he not have that right from the day the child was born.”
Joanna Brick, DeLuccia’s lawyer, said her client did not want to keep Plotnick away from the newborn and had planned “to provide him access to the child, as a visitor, through normal hospital procedure.” Brick added, “She did what she thought was right, to give birth in a stress-free environment.”
Father’s rights activists have criticized the ruling, arguing it’s a blow to men’s rights.
Bruce Eden of Dads Against Discrimination told NJ.com that the ruling was “another example of New Jersey’s anti-male discrimination in the family courts.” Eden added: “It takes two to tango, why are they allowing only the mother?”
Despite the ruling, Plotnick will not appeal the judge’s decision because he was able to see the child shortly after it was born.