The opinion acknowledged that New Jersey does not recognize fetuses as having legal rights. However, Judge Jones asserted that women who seek restraining orders for themselves should not have to wait until after giving birth to get a second one for their child.
Additionally, the restraining order for the unborn child would only take effect after birth. In Judge Jones’ ruling, he noted, “When a pregnant victim of domestic violence obtains a restraining order against an abuser, and thereafter gives birth to a child, the last place the victim may want to go immediately after delivery is right back to the courthouse again.”
Many believe that this precedent will be applied elsewhere throughout New Jersey.
The case involved a 17-year-old pregnant girl and her 18-year-old boyfriend who had a disagreement over whether they should keep the child. Eventually, the boy ambushed the girl in Lakewood, NJ. Along with 4 other women, he beat her up. According to Jill Thiemann, the girl’s attorney, it was unknown whether the fetus suffered damage due to the assault.
Ms. Thiemann reported, “The beating was traumatic for my client … This could have implications for women of all ages who might happen to be pregnant at the time an act of domestic violence was committed on them.”
Judge Jones based his decision partly on the fact that New Jersey’s domestic violence law provides a wide set of safeguards to victims and their families. Coinciding with this, Judge Jones explained that once a child is born, NJ already allows that child to sue his or her parents for damage he or she suffered in the womb.
He further noted, “Our Supreme Court has recognized that domestic violence is a serious problem in our society, and ‘persists as a grave threat to the family, particularly to women and children.’”
Members of New Jersey Right to Life view this as a huge step in the direction of establishing fetal protection and fetal personhood.
However, there is no telling how expansive this ruling will be or if an appellate court will simply strike it down.