A New York appeals court today affirmed the right of a woman to make basic life decisions during pregnancy, such as where she lives, works and attends school. The decision reversed a lower court’s finding that moving across state lines while pregnant was tantamount to kidnapping. The New York Civil Liberties Union filed a friend of the court brief in the case.
“Today’s decision affirms important principles regarding a woman’s constitutional right to equality, liberty and reproductive freedom,” said NYCLU Policy Counsel Katharine Bodde. “Too often women are denied basic freedoms and are unjustly penalized under the law because they are pregnant.”,
In 2012, Sarah McK* became pregnant during a relationship with Samuel MB* in California. During McK’s pregnancy, the couple broke up and MB filed a petition in California for a determination of custody, even though courts cannot entertain custody disputes before a child is born. The following month, McK moved to New York City to pursue her education. In February of 2013 the child was born in New York City and McK filed a custody petition in New York Family Court. On May 30, 2013, the New York Family Court dismissed McK’s custody petition finding that the New York court did not have jurisdiction.
Throughout the lower court’s decision, the judge chastised McK’s conduct, comparing her move to New York to “absconding” with the child.
Today’s appeals court decision rejected this analysis stating, “Putative fathers have neither the right nor the ability to restrict a pregnant woman from her constitutionally-protected liberty.”
*Names of clients are abbreviated to protect the privacy of the individuals.