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Thursday, July 26, 2007If there's anything grosser than a public restroom, it's probably a prison restroom. (Of course I'm only assuming this, having never been in a prison.) That's why Ohio mom Latosha S. McKenzie balked when an Alabama prison guard told her it was her only choice if she wanted to nurse her 8-month old son while she was visiting her husband.
The Huntsville Times has the story:
An Ohio woman said her civil rights were violated when a Limestone Correctional Facility guard directed her to the restroom to breast-feed her 8-month-old son during a recent visit with her husband.
During her most recent visit, July 14, when the guard told her to go into the restroom, McKenzie said she asked the guard if he would eat his lunch in the bathroom.
She said the guard told her that he would not eat in there, but that it was her only choice.
"The guard said, 'You wouldn't go into Hardee's or McDonald's to nurse your child, would you?' And I told him, 'Yes, I'll go anywhere and nurse my child,' " McKenzie said. "I was really humiliated and devastated."
Ok, while I am completely annoyed about this whole thing, I have to admit that the first two thoughts to cross my mind upon reading that were:
1.) Well I wouldn't go into a Hardee's PERIOD
2.) McDonald's? Sure! Let's have a little "Boobs, Folks and Fun!"
Seriously though, the guard's comment just floored me. Clearly the man has no concept of a woman's right to breastfeed in public if THAT was his defense for trying to send her off to a dirty bathroom stall.
Looks like the Alabama penal system needs to do a little educating of their employees about state laws.
To note, the Alabama law, which passed in the spring of 2006 reads:
A mother may breastfeed her child in any location, public or private, where the mother is otherwise authorized to be present.
Despite this, the prison has responded in the usual "we think we were probably right" manner:
Brian Corbett, spokesman for the Alabama Department of Corrections, said the matter could be a public safety issue.
"I certainly respect and have empathy for her to breast-feed in a clean environment, but our priority is public safety," Corbett said.
He said the department will seek an attorney general's opinion on how the new breast-feeding law applies to prisons.
"We want to make sure we're following the law, and there is some question based on what the law says about whether it includes a prison visitation yard," Corbett said.
I must say, I am quite curious to know how McKenzie's need to breastfeed would cause a "public safety" issue. Were they worried she'd squirt someone in the eye?
McKenzie is trying to get in touch with the Limestone warden, but hasn't yet been able to speak with him. Alabama does have a Civil Rights Commission, so I'll be curious to hear if she moves forward with action against the prison system.