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Monday, March 05, 2007Earlier this year there was quite a bit of celebration among lactivists as Wyoming Representative Kathy Davison proposed House Bill 105, one of the most comprehensive breastfeeding bills to ever be introduced in a U.S. State.
It not only excluded breastfeeding from public from public indecency laws, but also included sections that:
Allowed breastfeeding mothers to be excluded from jury duty
Made it a misdemeanor to interfere with a mother breastfeeding in public
Allowed incarcerated breastfeeding mothers to keep their baby with them per a medical officer's declaration
Required the inclusion of breastfeeding education in high school health courses
Required companies to be supportive of breastfeeding moms through breaks, areas to pump and areas to store milk.
Unfortunately, the bill was a little...optimistic. I'm a pretty staunch lactivist, but even I didn't figure the bill had a chance of passing as it was presented.
For example, companies were required to give a 15 minute break for every two hours of work so that moms could nurse or express breast milk. In an eight hour work day that would equal an hour off for breastfeeding. Unless there's something allowing for companies to ask moms to work an extra hour at the end of the day...well...it's a little excessive. (It's fantastic for a company to do that on their own, but realistically, many businesses can't afford to pay someone for an hour that they haven't worked.)
The section of the bill that made it a misdemeanor for someone to interfere with a mom that was nursing in public actually went so far as to state that the crime was punishable by up to six months in jail, a fine of $750 or both. Now again, I'm a lactivist and I think we need to protect moms that simply want to feed their children but up to six months in jail? For asking a mom to move or cover up? Come on...that's just completely unrealistic. In fact, the locals that have managed to pass laws that include penalties for interfering with breastfeeding usually leave it at something more along the lines of a speeding ticket. You pay a fine of roughly $100 and there's no risk of jail time. Much more realistic.
As such, the bill got caught up in committee and was in danger of not even making it to the floor for a vote.
When it finally did escape, it was so stripped down that it will become one of the weakest breastfeeding laws in U.S. states.
The ONLY thing that the bill does now is exempt breastfeeding from public indecency laws. It's a start...but I can't help but think that the supporters of this bill just pushed for too much too soon and that the backlash was to get hardly anything.
On the other hand, they've certainly broken new ground in terms of introducing really progressive breastfeeding legislation which will make it not NEAR the shock the next time someone pushes for such far-reaching legislation.