NEW HAVEN, Conn. — Should a father be allowed in the delivery room for the birth of his child, over the mother's objections? A New Jersey judge said no last November, in a ruling that was released in writing earlier this week. "Any interest a father has before the child's birth is subordinate to the mother's interest," Judge Sohail Mohammed wrote. That has to be the right call. At the same time, I can understand why fathers' rights groups see the ruling as discrimination: It privileges motherhood over fatherhood.
Rebecca DeLuccia and Steven Plotnick agree that they started a relationship in late 2012 and that DeLuccia learned she was pregnant in February 2013. Plotnick proposed and they got engaged. By September, they had broken up. Plotnick wanted to be involved with the pregnancy and with the child. Which is good, right? It's what we want fathers to do. But in this case, for whatever reason, Plotnick lawyered up. In October, Plotnick's lawyer wrote to DeLuccia, and then she got a lawyer too, and over the next month letters went back and forth about who would sign the birth certificate, who would be at the hospital for the birth, and - as Mohammed delicately puts it - whether there would be "litigation to resolve the matter if it could not be resolved amicably."
In November, Plotnick sued, saying DeLuccia was refusing to let him sign the birth certificate, tell him when she went into labor or allow him to be present for the delivery. DeLuccia responded by denying the first two accusations but saying that yes, she "will request her privacy in the delivery room," as the judge writes. She said she would put Plotnick's name on the list of visitors for after the delivery, though.
That sounds like a pretty good compromise to me. Once the baby is born, it's about the baby. Before that, though, it's about the mother, too - there is just no way to separate her from the fetus. That's the basic reality of nature that should allow a mother to decide the circumstances of her labor and delivery. "It is an inescapable biological fact that state regulation with respect to the child a woman is carrying will have a far greater impact on the mother's liberty than on the father's," the Supreme Court said in 1992 in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the case that reaffirmed Roe v. Wade and also held that states can't require women to inform their spouses that they're having an abortion. If a woman doesn't want her ex in the room while she gives birth - an ex who she's not talking to and who after all is suing her - then he can wait in the hallway. He'll still have plenty of opportunity to bond with his newborn.