A woman preparing to give birth can bar the father of their child from entering the delivery room, a New Jersey judge has ruled in one of the first cases of its kind nationwide.
The ruling settled a legal dispute that was argued the very day the woman gave birth. Superior Court Judge Sohail Mohammed said all patients — and pregnant women especially — enjoy strong privacy protections that let them decide who can be at their hospital bedside.
Fathers, on the other hand, have no established legal right to be present at the birth of their children, the judge wrote.
“Any interest a father has before the child’s birth is subordinate to the mother’s interests,” Mohammed wrote. “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.”
Citing a patient’s right to privacy as well as a pregnant woman’s right to control her body, the ruling said a father’s desire to be present during birth does not outweigh the choice of the mother.
“A father’s interest in the child pre-birth is not equal to the mother’s interest,” the judge wrote. “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.”