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Wisconsin Works on Breastfeeding Legislation

Looking for The Lactivist? She's retired. But you CAN still find Jen blogging. These days, she's runs A Flexible Life. Join her for life, recipes, projects and the occasional rant.

Friday, February 09, 2007

The Badger Herald has a story today about the breastfeeding bill making its way through the Wisconsin legislature. Sponsored by State Sen. Fred Risser, and Rep. Sheldon Wasserman, the bill would not only protect a child's right to nurse in public, but would also level a fine against anyone that attempted to interfere with a nursing mother and child.

This version of the law would set Wisconsin far above most other states in terms of protections for breastfeeding rights. While the greatest majority of states have laws on the books that state a mother and child may nurse in public, the reality is that those laws simply protect a mother from being arrested. Unless there is a statement making it illegal and/or levying a fine for interference, a mom can still be asked to leave and has little recourse against the business that kicked her out.

From the Badger Herald:

Wasserman, co-author of "The Right to Breastfeed Act," said many women in Wisconsin fear harassment when nursing, and added that the bill will include punishment for such behavior.

"We encourage breastfeeding," Wasserman said. "And if anyone bothers people breastfeeding, they can receive a ticket up to $200."

Not everyone in the state supports the bill, however.

Julaine Appling, executive director of the Family Research Institute of Wisconsin, said nursing is important for children, but it should be done with discretion.

"Breastfeeding is very natural. However, I don't think that we need to have legislation that gives special sanction to it," Appling said. "Just because something is normal and natural — it doesn’t mean we have to condone [it]."

First let me say that if you live in Wisconsin, I encourage you to contact your local represenative and let them know that you support this bill and would like to see it passed.

Beyond that, I'm left with this thought:

Am I the only one getting a little sick and tired of this "done with discretion" crap?

There are two issues at play here...

1.) Who gets to define discretion? To me, discretion means that I don't stand on a chair and scream "HEY EVERYBODY! I'M GOING TO BE PULLING MY BREASTS OUT NOW!" before I nurse. To others, it means "covering up" with a blanket or nursing cover. To others, it means pulling the shirt down to cover most of the breast. To others, it means that you shouldn't be able to tell the baby is nursing unless you stick your head up the mom's shirt. To others, it means "don't leave your house you hussy!"

2.) When did people lose the ability to look away? I see a lot of things in public that I don't like. I see teenagers wearing clothes so small that I can tell when the last time they cleaned their belly button lint was. I see women shoving themselves into clothes four sizes too small. I see men that need to invest in belts and suspenders to avoid showing us their own little grand canyon when they bend over. I see people with mullets.

You know what I do? I look the other way. I don't have the right to "not be offended." I have the right to "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." That's it.

Now beyond that, I really, really REALLY want to know where this magic land is where women "whip it out," "flop it out" and "hang it out" for all the world to see while they nurse. Granted, I live in a state with fairly low rates of breastfeeding, but I have never, ever EVER in my life seen even a smidgen of breast while someone was nursing in public. Not once. (Ok, truth be told, I have a hard time seeing moms nurse in public period...)

Every time I read one of these "done with discretion" comments I go back to that early Lactivist post where I wrote about the women that apparently nurse their children while standing on top of the bar with a tassel attached to the other breast shouting "hey everyone!! look at me!! I'm nursing!!!'

I just don't see it folks...

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  1. Anonymous Suzi | 1:24 PM |  

    I couldn't have said it better myself. You go girl. I live in Illinois and we have such a law that was enacted in 2004! It can be done! I was even sent a card by the First Lady of Illinois after I had each of my children saying not only do I have the right to breastfeed in public, but it is illegal for anyone to refuse to let me or ask me to leave (or something to that effect).


  2. Blogger venessa | 1:36 PM |  

    "Just because something is normal and natural — it doesn’t mean we have to condone [it]."

    That's a rather odd statement, I think. But doing a little research on that group makes their position on many issues pertinent to women pretty clear. Arg.

  3. Blogger Judy | 2:24 PM |  

    Out of context quote of the day, I see people with mullets. LOL

    Also, I don't remember ever seeing anyone nurse in public my whole life. My mom said she used to see it when whe was a kid (1950's-early 60's) but never sees it anymore.

  4. Blogger Jennifer | 2:29 PM |  

    "But doing a little research on that group makes their position on many issues pertinent to women pretty clear."

    And boy do those things REALLY annoy me. For our new readers...I'm an evangelical Christian. (Ha! you thought I was a hippy liberal, didn't you! Admit it!)

    I will never, ever, EVER understand the Christian organizations that come down against things like breastfeeding in public.

    Do they think Eve went and hid in the bathroom? Do they think Rachel hid in her tent to nurse Issac? Do they think Mary made sure no one ever saw her nurse Jesus?

    The idea that breastfeeding is shameful isn't a Christian idea, it's a manufactured "morality" of some modern American Christians that have decided anything related to breasts must be related to sex and we all know how bad and dirty sex is.

    Last time I read my Bible, it was simply FULL of positive references to nursing. In fact, in the Psalms it's often used as an allegory to the way that God loves his people.

    New readers might enjoy my take on the Christians and breastfeeding issue from this post:


  5. Blogger Jennifer | 2:37 PM |  

    "I don't remember ever seeing anyone nurse in public my whole life."


  6. Blogger Judy | 6:45 PM |  

    Well, I mean in person in public, not on TV :) When have I been with you in public when you nursed Emmitt? I went on mostly bedrest a little over a month after he was born.


  7. Blogger Jennifer | 9:10 AM |  

    Well if you'd go with me to play group or a LLL meeting or to the mall to walk or something...

    THEN you'd see it. After all, he eats every other minute. ;)

  8. Blogger LeashYourDogPlease | 10:59 AM |  

    You'd see my breasts when I'm nursing, because I am a newbie mama and have to work really hard to get a good latch. Take the boob out, tickle the nose with the nipple, wait for the gape, ram the boob in, rinse, lather, repeat as needed! :) 'Course once she is latched we are set, so if you don't see us in that limited span of time you wouldn't see much. But my boob is *out* when I nurse! If I could do it MORE discreetly (by my definition) I certainly would. (Will, hopefully, as baby gets older and better at latching on.)

  9. Blogger beth | 12:11 PM |  

    Hehe, I sure am glad I found your site. I really enjoy reading your thoughts, especially when they mirror my own. How come cleavage is a woman's right to show off (ever seen the billboards in Las Vegas?), but the teeniest bit of flesh from nursing is a sin. It's all because people associate the breast with sex and attaching a baby to such a sexual object is just *wrong*!

  10. Blogger Judy | 2:21 PM |  

    As a conservative Christian myself, I was upset to find out that the one person quoted was a leader of a conservative Christian pro family group.

    I wrote this letter to her; we'll see how and if she responds.

    Dear Ms. Appling,

    I recently read the article about a proposed breastfeeding bill in Wisconsin. I read this following quote from you where you appear to be against the bill:

    Breastfeeding is very natural. However, I don’t think that we need to have legislation that gives special sanction to it,” Appling said. “Just because something is normal and natural — it doesn’t mean we have to condone [it].”

    I guess I was hoping for some clarification. Breastfeeding is so important for children, and the vast majority of mothers who would feed their babies in public would be very discreet about it. It's not like there would be an epidemic of topless mothers feeding their kids.

    I really believe a bill like this is pro family and should be supported by conservative Christians. People without small children think it's just as simple as going to the nearest public restroom to feed their child in seclusion. It's just not that simple, and I don't think it's such an offensive activity that it should be hidden. If people saw it more, like they do in other countries, it would cease to be a big deal.

    I think we should celebrate God's design in feeding babies instead of hiding and being ashamed. Objecting to public breastfeeding is an inappropriate reaction to an oversexualized society.

    It's so nervewracking being a new mom, trying to do what's best for our babies. A pro family group should hope we wouldn't be harassed simply for feeding our children and consider supporting bills like this.


    My name :)

  11. Blogger Judy | 9:08 AM |  

    Here's Juliane's official comment. She failed to reply to me personally.

    My opinion probably falls somewhere between my Lactivist friend and Ms. Appling. I do believe that there needs to be recourse for others if a breastfeeding woman is acting indecently/lewdly, no matter how unlikely that may be. We need to be careful how laws are written to balance the concerns of reasonable breastfeeding mothers and the public to police indecent behavior.

    However I think the greatest problem is with reasonable women being harassed while discreetly breastfeeding. It's sad that there has to be a law to protect discreet breastfeeding, but it seems necessary to me.

    I was very disappointed with the tone of the letter. I have no idea what has gone on between this woman and the reporter or the newspaper, but I think Ms. Appling needs to remember she represents Christ to college freshman and liberals even if they disagree with her and even mistreat her. Christian first, political activist second.

  12. Blogger Judy | 9:13 AM |  

    Me thinks I forgot to include the link to the response :)


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