EDISON - In a precedent-setting case, a New Jersey judge has ruled that an expectant mother does not have to notify the father of her baby, nor does she have to allow him in the delivery room if the parents are estranged or unmarried.

The New Jersey Law Journal reports Superior Court Judge Sohail Mohammed held that a woman may make that decision based on her right to privacy and to control her body during pregnancy and delivery.

The opinion was published on March 10 in regard to the case of Steven Plotnick v. Rebecca DeLuccia that was heard last month. The couple, who had been engaged but separated during the pregnancy, argued over the father's right to be present at the birth of the child.

"A finding in favor of plaintiff for both notification and forced entry into the delivery room would in fact be inconsistent with existing jurisprudence on the interests of women in the children they carry pre-birth," Mohammed wrote. "It would create practical concerns where the father's unwelcomed presence could cause additional stress on the mother and child." 

Mohammed cited Roe v. Wade, which gave women the right to make decisions during pregnancy, and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which struck down a state law that required women having abortions to notify their husbands.

DeLuccia's lawyer, Joanna Brick applauded the ruling, saying it reiterates a mother's right to privacy, especially during childbirth when she is partially naked. "Why should she expose herself in the most personal, intimate moment of her life?" she asked.

Laura Nunnick, who represented Plotnick, was disappointed with the decision. "I was upset for fathers and their rights," she says, adding that the father was able to see the baby in the nursery.

Mohammed noted that the issue of whether a father has the right to be present during delivery if the mother objects had not previously been litigated in the United States.