A North Carolina woman, Laura Ruble, was stunned after deputies at Mecklenburg County Courthouse ordered her to leave when she began breastfeeding her 23-month-old daughter Mae, according to WCNC.
“I was terrified that I was going to be arrested,” said Ruble. “I certainly did not want to be in contempt of court, but I knew that what I was doing was legal.”
Ruble, who is completing a Master of Arts degree in Liberal Arts at Duke University, was in court as a legal observer – which is a requirement for her graduate school work – and brought her daughter along.
The married mother stated that on that particular day, court proceedings started later than usual and Mae missed her nap. To prevent her daughter from becoming cranky in court, she decided to breastfeed her until she fell asleep.
As she was doing so, Ruble stated that she “felt like all eyes were on me and I felt like it was undue attention for something that is very natural, very normal.”
Just shortly after, a deputy approached her and said, “You can’t do that in here.”
Initially, Ruble thought he was referring to a Diet Dr. Pepper that was adjacent to her so she put it in her bag, unbeknownst to the fact that he was talking about her breastfeeding in the court.
The deputy reiterated, “You can’t do ‘that’ in here.”
He then “waved his hands over his chest and said ‘you’re exposing yourself.'”
Ruble was shocked to uncover that the deputy had an issue with her breastfeeding in the courtroom, but she was even more muddled when he ordered her to leave or report to a women’s restroom to breastfeed her baby.
Ruble refused as she knew what she was doing was not illegal and informed officers that in the state of North Carolina, “women may breastfeed in any public or private location where she is otherwise authorized to be, with or without a cover to hide her nipples.”
After explaining her rights, it was reported that more deputies began to hover over the woman and her child, which “was really intimidating, and they all seemed very angry that I didn’t want to leave the courtroom.”
She went on to say that she eventually left the courtroom feeling “embarrassed about something she shouldn’t feel embarrassed about.”
Ruble later reported the incident and Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Department has since released a statement, which stated as follows: “The Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) takes very seriously the investigation of any complaint that is received by this Office. The MCSO will conduct a thorough investigation regarding the allegations that have been made by Ms. Ruble, to include contacting her by phone for follow-up, which follows MCSO policy regarding the receipt of citizen complaints.”
“The MCSO strives to provide outstanding public service with integrity and any violation of Sheriff’s Office policy that is discovered in the course of any investigation will be handled pursuant to that policy. The MCSO recognizes that this office works for the citizens of Mecklenburg County and that this process is essential for maintaining public trust.”
A supervising officer later apologized to Ruble regarding the incident but she stated that “it didn’t feel like an apology.”
“It was very much along the vein of, ‘we are sorry you feel this way about what happened to you,’ and there was no acknowledgment that anything wrong had happened,” she said.
Ruble has since gone public with her story in an attempt to prevent other breastfeeding mothers from feeling ashamed and embarrassed for simply feeding their child.
She has started a petition, in which she has garnered 486 signatures, to “bring awareness and encourage retraining of deputies working in the courthouse.”
[Featured Image via Facebook / Laura Ruble]