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Breastfeeding in Public Bill Passes Pennsylvania House

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.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

The breastfeeding legislation working its way through Pennsylvania went before the full House for a vote yesterday was passed unanimously.

Usually, that would be something worth celebrating. Unfortunately, the PA bill was stripped of any real power by the Rep that introduced it and the version that went up for a vote failed to include a proposed amendment that would have given it some teeth.

Since the governor has already promised to sign it, the bill is expected to become law.

The full text of SB 34 is as follows:


WHEREAS, There are benefits to the child, the mother and society by encouraging and enabling mothers to breastfeed their children; and WHEREAS, An infant who is breastfed receives protection against infection, illness and allergies, and long-term positive effects on the development, intelligence and health of breastfed children have been found; and
WHEREAS, A protective effect against various types of cancer and greater emotional and physical health are found for mothers who breastfeed; and
WHEREAS, Breastfeeding promotes sufficient birth spacing, improved vaccine effectiveness and decreased food and medical expenses, which all have positive societal effects; and
WHEREAS, The Pennsylvania Supplemental Food Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) promotes breastfeeding education and support; and
WHEREAS, Legislation to clarify the right to breastfeed is necessary to promote breastfeeding and remove any stumbling block from influencing a mother's decision to breastfeed or continue breastfeeding.

The General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania hereby enacts as follows:
Section 1. This act shall be known and may be cited as the Freedom to Breastfeed Act.
Section 2. Declaration of policy.
The General Assembly finds that breastfeeding a baby is an important and basic act of nurturing that must be protected in the interests of maternal and child health and family values.
Section 3. General rule.
A mother shall be permitted to breastfeed her child in any location, public or private, where the mother and child are otherwise authorized to be present, irrespective of whether or not the mother's breast is covered during or incidental to the breastfeeding.
Right 4. freedom to breastfeed.
The act of breastfeeding shall not be considered:
(1) Indecent exposure as defined in 18 Pa.C.S. § 3127 (relating to indecent exposure).
(2) Open lewdness as defined in 18 Pa.C. Section 5901
(relating to open lewdness).
(3) Obscenity or sexual conduct as defined in 18 Pa.C.S. § 5903 (relating to obscene and other sexual materials and performances).
(4) A nuisance as defined in 18 Pa.C.S. § 6504 (relating
to public nuisances).
Section 10. Effective date.
This act shall take effect immediately.


Birth Without Boundaries' Jake Marcus, a lawyer who was one of the women working hard on this bill, explains the impact (or lack of impact) made by the bill this way.

...this law does not change the right of the owner of a public accommodation, a store or restaurant, to withdraw a woman's authorization to be there. If he does that, she can be arrested for trespass.

As before, women who are harassed should be sure they are being asked to leave by the owner or person in the highest level of management in a space because only that person can withdraw her right to be there. A waitress or store clerk is not authorized to turn a woman into a trespasser. Police can only arrest for trespass if instructed to do so by the owner of the space.

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  1. Blogger Danielle's Daily life | 2:47 AM |  

    While I ended up unable to breastfeed my daughter, I am still very much on the side you are on regarding this issue- that babies should be fed anywhere they are at any time. Since my daughter was born, however, I have heard more than one comment from breastfeeding moms about how I "probably shouldn't have had her". I don't know how much any of you believe in karma, but you should give it a shot, it might help the advocacy process. Good luck.

  2. Blogger Lightfinder | 7:05 AM |  

    This law is written in such a way, as to completely nullify itself. What, even, is the point??? This is sad, sad, sad.

  3. Anonymous Anonymous | 8:19 AM |  

    Danielle, I am also a supporter of breastfeeding rights. I have two sons, I nursed my seven year old until he was about 14 months and I'm still currently nursing my 21 month old. While I consider myself a staunch supporter of breastfedding, I do not appoint myself judge concerning other people's parenting choices. My own sister chose not to breastfeed her children, but that choice doesn't diminish her ability to nurture them. Unfortunately, there are those in the breastfeeding world that feign concern for other women's children in an attempt to hide their self righteous rantings. Please know that we are not all this way. Anyone who could tell you that you shouldn't have had your daughter is denying the very miracle of life, and looking like an idiot in the process! Perhaps we should all be reminded that we will be judged by the same standard that we attempt to judge others with, and we will fall short.
    Misty

  4. Anonymous Mary | 9:34 AM |  

    If the General Rule states that a woman can breastfeed in any public or private place, why can she still be considered trespassing? This is all too confusing to me. Can you clarify? I am a Pennsylvania mom due to give birth to #2 in two weeks and would love to be able to have my argument planned when I NIP.

  5. Blogger JudyBright | 1:44 PM |  

    Honestly though, do we want breastfeeding bills to have teeth?

    Chomp chomp! ;-)

  6. Blogger Anna | 6:54 AM |  

    Mary: If the person in highest authority of an establishment asks you to leave and you refuse, you can be arrested for trespassing. Your right to be there has been revoked. That's why it's generally recommended that a breastfeeding mom leave if she's asked by a manager to do so, because her "right" to be there at all, let alone breastfeed, has been revoked.

    No one has to get arrested to make a point. The fact that a person is asked to leave because they were breastfeeding should be enough for the establishment to be found guilty of denying access to a place of public accommodation on the basis of sex.

    The problem with most breastfeeding laws currently on the books is that they are rights without remedies. If a mother is harassed by an establishment but *not* actually asked to leave, she really has no recourse.

  7. Anonymous Jake | 9:03 AM |  

    Mary, unfortunately you are starting with the wrong General Rule. Property owners have the right to withdraw consent for a person to be in their space unless explicitly (emphasis on "explicitly") forbidden to do so by another law. The Civil Rights Act, for example, explicitly forbids discrimination by property owners on the basis of race. The PA bill does not limit the right of the property owner. Many other state laws (like in our border states of Delaware and New York) include the language "notwithstanding any other provision of law" which makes the right to breastfeed superior to the store owner's right to withdraw authorization. In states without language limiting the right to withdraw authorization to be in a space, women are routinely harassed or legally threatened with arrest for trespass by property owners. Examples include a mother in Universal Studios in Florida a week ago, a mother in a theme park in Colorado two weeks before that, and, perhaps most famously, the Ronald McDonald House moms in Texas earlier this year. Florida, Colorado, and Texas all have "right to breastfeed" laws with stronger language than the PA bill, but none of these laws limit the right of the property owner.

    I want to note that when I say "property owner" I mean the owner of a public accomodation, which is private property open to the public, like a store, mall, or amusement park. This does not apply to completely private property, like a home.

    Hope that helps.

    Jake Marcus

  8. Anonymous Anonymous | 7:10 PM |  

    Isn't there some other law concerning discrimination that could prohibit a store owner from banning someone, accusing them of trespassing, they need a reason, and it is illegal to ask someone to leave due to breastfeeding now, so if they ask you to leave, get a reason, then when they lie, sue their butts off for discrimination. They can't revoke your right to be in a public area without reason and breastfeeding is not a legal reason. Can they just say they don't want you there, and that's a good enough reason? I am confused, I thought this was America.

  9. Anonymous Anonymous | 8:13 PM |  

    I too am a breastfeeding mother I nursed my son until he was 24 months old and I am still nursing my 15 month old daughter. They are healthy and I am thin! What else could I ask for. Breastfeeding surely benefits both the mother and the child. Why discriminate against something so natural. Women that think breastfeeding is disguting I have to wonder..how were they raised..what do they think those two things hanging are there for, surely not for their own enjoyment. One of the best ways to start off as a mother is to have that bond with your child by breastfeeding. Its important and I honor all things that honor it.

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