Texas Democratic State Representative Jessica Farrar re-introduced a bill last month that has since stirred up proponents on both sides of the issue. HB 1706 introduces a number of provisions that would make it a crime to harass women who choose to breastfeed in public.
“These provisions would ensure that a mother’s right to be in a location may not be revoked solely because she begins to breastfeed,” Farrar said in a press release. “Further, it would generally prevent a person from interfering with a woman’s right to breastfeed.”
Texas Republican State Representative Debbie Riddle is one of the bill’s more outspoken critics. She has stated that she will not vote in favor of the bill. Riddle is 64 years old and is married but has never had children.
“Now, I am all in favor of breast feeding – however it is important for women to be modest while feeding their baby – and most women are modest and respectful,” Riddle wrote on her Facebook page last week. “But, a bill that would allow for law suits if one ‘interfered’ with a woman breast feeding is really going a bit far.”
Riddle contended that any business owner who objects to a woman breastfeeding would then be fearful of a lawsuit. She was met with sharp criticism and has since deleted the post from her page. Despite being deleted, the post, which attracted over 1,000 comments, can still be read.
“Let me get this straight,” wrote a commenter in Arlington, Texas. “Some people may object to a breastfeeder, but instead of just NOT LOOKING, they can’t control themselves and may be offended, you won’t support the bill because they have the right to be offended for something that doesn’t affect them in any way? Say what?”
Farrar told the Texas Tribune that Riddle’s post illustrates the problem she hopes to address.
“Lingerie commercials reveal more than women actually trying to do good for their children and their families,” she said. “… Some people think that breastfeeding is somehow obscene.”
Texas law already allows mothers to breastfeed in any location in which they are authorized to be in, but many do not know about this right. Some have still faced persecution. A Houston mom made national news last year when a US district judge ruled that her employer had not discriminated against her by firing her when she requested a space to breastfeed at work.
HB 1706 offers mothers a number of protections. The bill aims to:
- Ensure that the mother’s right to breastfeed is known and protected
- Provide the public with notice of the right to breastfeed and prohibit interference with that right
- Provide redress to a person whose right has been infringed upon through a private civil cause of action
- Require state agencies, to the extent practicable, to develop a “Mother-Friendly” worksite policy supporting the practice of worksite breastfeeding.
Farrar’s breastfeeding bill is currently pending in committee.