Sunday, March 16, 2014

A father has no legal right to be in the delivery room, a court rules.

A woman preparing to give birth has no obligation to notify the father when or where the birth will occur, a New Jersey court has ruled. And if the father does appear at the hospital, the mother can bar him from entering the delivery room. The case appears to be the first of its kind nationwide.

The case arose after a couple conceived a child, got engaged, but later called off the wedding. After the wedding was called off, they were barely on speaking terms. The father finally sued the mother and requested access to the baby at the hospital after its birth. He didn't even request to be in the delivery room.

The court specifically ruled that fathers have no established legal right to be present at the birth of their children. Going further, the court also said that the father wasn't even entitled to know at which hospital the birth would occur. 

The court first noted that he father’s presence could put undue stress on the mother and possibly harm the fetus. In this case, the mother had undergone testing for premature labor and stress. But, more importantly, the court pointed to the strong constitutional and statutory protections afforded to all medical patients, not only pregnant women. Basically, any patient can decide who he wants to have at his bedside. The fact that they were dealing with the birth of a baby had no consequence. The court ruled that any interest a father has before the child’s birth is “subordinate to the mother’s interests.” 

This seems like a tough result, but it was the only logical decision for the court after it analyzed two landmark Supreme Court cases on abortion. The court cited Roe v. Wade from 1973 and Planned Parenthood v. Casey from 1992. Both of those cases established stronger privacy rights for expectant mothers and their unborn child than their fathers. Specifically, the Casey ruled that women are not even required to tell their spouses about abortions. An abortion seems like much more of a drastic situation than a birth, so the court ruled that the same privacy rights should be extended to births as well.

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