Michigan is one of only five states that does not have measures in place to protect a woman’s right to breastfeed her baby in public, and the bill that would change this fact has been stuck in committee for the past five months.
Despite mountains of evidence demonstrating the benefits to babies and to mothers, breastfeeding moms still encounter discrimination for the simple act of feeding their baby when the tiny tot is hungry. In Michigan, a breastfeeding mother may legally be required to leave a place of business if the owner doesn’t want her to nurse. She cannot be arrested for indecent exposure; Michigan legislature has at least made it that far. But she can be harassed or asked to leave a business, or even a courtroom.
That is a problem according to some mothers in Michigan. Lisa North told Fox that she has been harassed for breastfeeding her child in public whenever and wherever her baby is hungry. According to her husband Patrick North, it has happened at public events:
“She went to sit on the grass away from the crowds to breastfeed and the security guards came up and said she couldn’t do it there.”
According to the Examiner, one Michigan mom was threatened with arrest in a local Target last December for breastfeeding her 4-month-old there. A security guard told her it was illegal and actually called the police to escort her from the store. More important issues like watching out for shoplifters and catching actual bad guys were put on hold for the apparently dangerous crime of feeding an infant.
That same month, a bill that would secure the inherent right for mothers to breastfeed sailed through the Michigan Senate with no problems, only to be stuck in the House Judiciary Committee ever since.
Last week, a group of mothers and breastfeeding advocates descended on the capital to ask, “Why?”
“Women have a right to breast feed in public,” Shannon Polk of the Michigan Breastfeeding Network told MLive. “We don’t ask anyone else to eat in a bathroom or eat under a blanket.” Shannon, like many other people, has a problem with that mentality.
Recently The Inquisitr reported on a campaign in Texas that points out how absurd it is that women are sometimes expected to breastfeed their babies in bathroom stalls. Nobody expects an adult to take a lunch break in the bathroom, so why should babies eat there amongst the germs
Susan J. Demas wrote a piece for MLIVE calling for Republicans and Democrats to unite on the breastfeeding bill. It is an issue that is truly non-partisan and gives legislators something that is not divisive along party lines. Polk told The Inquisitr that “it shouldn’t be a huge issue; it should be very simple.”
“We just need to normalize it.”
Supporters on Advocacy Day found that many legislators are in support of the breastfeeding bill. The holdup in the Judiciary Committee appears to be a fear that the measure might negatively impact businesses. The bill contains language that would allow a breastfeeding mother to file a civil lawsuit against a business harassing her or demanding that she leave, for up to $200.
House Judiciary Chairman Rep. Kevin Cotter (R) has put the bill on hold at present, saying in a statement reported by WNEM:
“I believe it is important to preserve the ability to breastfeed wherever a mother sees fit, but we must make sure we do it correctly so that we create a legally sound law, rather than one that opens the door to potential lawsuits.”
Cotter has also stated, “I want to preserve the ability to breast feed (but) I want to get it right.”
Perhaps he should look at the other 45 states that already have laws in place securing the right to breastfeed in public. Legislative support of an inherent right such as breastfeeding can make a huge difference for new mothers who are sometimes intimidated by biases against her efforts. Some mothers overcome tremendous obstacles and difficulties in order to do what they believe, and science back up, is the best thing for their babies.
Michigan mothers who have faced harassment or discrimination for breastfeeding in public are asked to contact the Michigan Breastfeeding Network to share their stories by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 810 771 8643.
Supporters of the breastfeeding bill are asking for phone calls to be made to the Michigan legislature to show legislators your support. Contact information for Rep. Cotter and the Judiciary Committee may be found here. Lawmakers need to hear that a bill securing the basic human right of breastfeeding a baby is worthy of their support.
[Image via bing; Campaign poster photos by Johnathan Wenske/Kris Haro]