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Withdrawing Support for the Pennsylvania Breastfeeding Bill

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.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

It's only been two months since I first wrote about this year's push for comprehensive breastfeeding legislation in Pennsylvania, one of the few states that lacks any type of breastfeeding laws.

Unfortunately, I've just heard the following from Jake Marcus, Legal Director of Birth Without Boundaries and things are not going well.

In a move that surprised her supporters, Senator Connie Williams gutted her own public breastfeeding bill in the Pennsylvania Senate on today by introducing an amendment which strikes the language "protecting the right [to breastfeed]" and replaces it with "permitting a mother the freedom." In all other places in the bill where the word "right" was used, Williams had it struck and replaced it with the word "freedom."

Williams also amended her own bill to strike the entire section which would have forbidden local governments from passing ordinances prohibiting breastfeeding thus leaving all Pennsylvania women vulnerable to the whim of local governments and allowing local governments to make public breastfeeding illegal.

Jake goes on to comment:

"No law is better than a bad law. We will work tirelessly in the Pennsylvania House to get a public breastfeeding bill that will truly protect the rights of breastfeeding women and their children, and search for a Pennsylvania state senator to introduce it in the senate."

I couldn't agree more.

Right now, states that have no legislation are simply left with a situation of breastfeeding being legal, but there being no existing protection for mother's. That leaves decisions about any incidents that happen up to judges and local law enforcement. A poorly written law like this one can actually DIMINISH protection by putting very low standards in place that people can live "down to" when it comes to enforcement.

I'd encourage all Pennsylvania moms to contact their representatives to urge them to reject this legislation. A lot of work went into it, but the mothers and babies of PA will be better served by a new bill being introduced to the next session.

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  1. Blogger tanya@motherwearblog | 3:48 PM |  

    I'm a little confused about the section prohibiting local jurisdictions from passing ordinances restricting the right of mothers to breastfeed. Was that section necessary? Doesn't state law trump local ordinance anyway?

  2. Anonymous Jake | 4:19 PM |  

    Yes Tanya, that section confused a lot of people, including the Senator. State law does preempt local law but in Pennsylvania there is no state law protecting the right to breastfeed in public. The amendments to the senate bill removed all "rights" language so even if this version ultimately becomes law, it will not create a state enforceable right. Local governments will still be able to do as they please in passing local breastfeeding ordinances.

    Sadly this stripped down bill passed today and we can only hope that the House will be more friendly to breastfeeding mothers and their children.

  3. Anonymous Anonymous | 5:28 PM |  

    I am gutted to hear this. What madness!!! I had been encouraging my family and friends to support this bill, and I am so sorry to hear that it's been made toothless. Perhaps a strong law will be passed at a later point in time.

  4. Blogger dbassett | 6:01 AM |  

    So, if I understand correctly, my local government can prohibit my breastfeeding in public? Ugh. Something really needs to be done about this.

    Based on everything I've read, in Pennsylvania, it's illegal to have a homebirth WITH a midwife. We've got some messed up laws here.

    It really makes you wonder what these people are thinking.

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