Friday, October 31, 2008

My Kind of Legislation

When this election is over, I'm writing to my state senators and representatives.

While breastfeeding in public is currently legal and supposedly protected in Utah, in practice it's not.

Last March a lady in our playgroup, was asked to "cover up" while breastfeeding in a Gold's Gym establishment, where she had a membership. She did follow up with the company and related Utah's laws to them, defending her position. But she was flustered and upset that in a state where she's supposedly "protected" she really couldn't do much.

The current legislation (Utah State Code 10-8-50, item 3) states:

(3) (a) A woman's breast feeding, including breast feeding in any location where she otherwise may rightfully be, does not under any circumstance constitute a lewd or indecent act, irrespective of whether or not the breast is covered during or incidental to feeding.
(b) Boards of commissioners and city councils of cities may not prohibit a woman's breast feeding in any location where she otherwise may rightfully be, irrespective of whether the breast is uncovered during or incidental to the breast feeding.
But what if a mother is asked to leave? or cover up? ridiculed? harassed? What repercussions are there to the establishment?

None. Sure, she has a right to be there, but who enforces that right? Nobody.

This isn't good enough.

Some states have breastfeeding laws that have more teeth. For example, Illinois law states (I'm just quoting the teethy part of the law),
A woman who has been denied the right to breastfeed by the owner or manager of a public or private location, other than a private residence or place of worship, may bring an action to enjoin future denials of the right to breastfeed. If the woman prevails in her suit, she shall be awarded reasonable attorney's fees and reasonable expenses of litigation.
Their law even recommends (but sadly, doesn't require) employers to provide a place and breaks for working mothers to express/pump milk other than a bathroom stall and excludes breastfeeding mothers from jury duty. Not surprisingly, a certain Illinois Senator co-sponsored this bill. Hooray for him and the other legislators.

In Vermont, a mother "may file a charge of discrimination with the human rights commission ... or may bring an action for injunctive relief and compensatory and punitive damages and any other appropriate relief in the superior court of the county in which the violation is alleged to have occurred." Taken from here- I couldn't find it on the Vermont website.

This is what we need in Utah- it's what is needed everywhere. Ideally, we wouldn't need to legislate protection for a hungry child- it shouldn't be an issue. I hope someday we get to that point.

It might seem like a small matter, but you can definitely gauge the success of a society by how they treat women and children.

How does your state measure up? And if you run into harassment for feeding your child, contact FirstRight.

3 comments:

  1. funny thing. i wore my "boobs are food" shirt to the voting place today. it was generally received well. a few made jokes, a lot smiled. no one harassed. one step at a time, we will change the world.

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  2. I love the laws in California, we are very well protected and most places respect that. When I've come across people that don't , I set them straight and they apologize. I also got out of jury duty last month and will be able to as long as baby (or toddler!) are nursing :)

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  3. It's so depressing that we even have to have laws for this stuff, but I like to think that attitudes are turning around in most places! Hopefully Utah too!

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