Many Maryland readers have gone through difficult custody struggles after a marriage or relationship ends. However, one recent child custody dispute is unique because it focuses on the extent of parental rights that are available before the child is even born. The case has received widespread media attention, and the ruling is being touted as a victory for women's rights.
The case centers on a man and woman who conceived a child together but then became estranged before the child was born. The father wanted to be present for the labor and delivery process, but the mother refused. He then asked a court to decide the matter.
In making the decision, the court looked at case-law focusing on a pregnant woman's right to choose abortion. The right to medical privacy aspects of Roe V. Wade were examined, as well as another case in which a different abortion ruling blocked proposed legislation that would require a woman to get the permission of the father before obtaining an abortion. Both of those cases place a pregnant woman's rights in a position of dominance over those of any other party.
This ruling also supports the notion that the well-being of a fetus is closely connected to that of the mother. Creating a situation that could add stress and turmoil to the process of labor and delivery seems to be in opposition to the well-being of the mother. Fathers in Maryland and across the nation certainly enjoy a range of rights in regard to their children, but this ruling suggests that a child custody dispute is best handled after the child is born, and not before.
Source: care2.com, "Does a Biological Father Have a Right to Be Present at Birth?", Robin Marty, March 18, 2014