Update: The Massachusetts Breastfeeding Coalition is urging calls to the Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, especially today (Thursday, 12/7). SB 2704 is stalled in this committee, and the bill is encountering opposition from restaurant owners. They are urging calls to Chairman DeLeo of the House Ways and Means Committee at 617-722-2990. I just called, and it was quick and easy! You can find talking points here.
Live in Massachusetts or New York? Now's your chance to voice your support for breastfeeding rights. Bills pending in your state legislatures would improve breastfeeding policy in your state.
In Massachusetts, State Senator Susan Fargo has authored the SB 2704, the Breastfeeding Mothers Protection Act, which would provide protection for nursing in public and would create an incentive for employers to establish clean, private facilities for women to pump and store breastmilk. Massachusetts is one of only 14 states that do not have laws which specifically allow women to breastfeed in any public or private location.
I have to say that it was a little bit of a shock to me when I moved from California to Massachusetts, a state generally supportive of breastfeeding, and found that there is so little here in terms of protection for nursing mothers. In California there is specific protection for nursing in public and private locations, a requirement that employers provide accomodations for pumping mothers, and law allowing nursing mothers to postpone jury duty. Massachusetts? Nothing, yet.
Weighing in on the Massachusetts legislation has been made very easy by Children's Hospital of Boston. Just click here, and you'll find a site where you can write an email to your legislators in a flash. And if your representative sits on the House Ways and Means Committee, which you can check here, take a minute to call his or her office to urge that the bill be approved by the committee. For more information and updates, visit the Massachusetts Breastfeeding Coalition website.
What does it mean to live in a state that doesn't have specific protection for breastfeeding? La Leche League answers that "the lack of a state law does not mean that it is illegal to breastfeed in public. If a state does not have a law addressing public breastfeeding, it may mean that a private person, such as a restaurant owner, may have the right to ask a breastfeeding mother to leave."
Last month, New York State Senator Liz Krueger introduced breastfeeding legislation last month which includes a "Breastfeeding Bill of Rights." The bill establishes a bill of rights which requires the following:
- Before Delivery: The right to information free from commercial interests, which provides the nutritional, medical and psychological benefits of breastfeeding; An explanation of some of the problems a mother may encounter, and how to avoid or solve them.
- In the Hospital: The mothers' right for her baby to stay with her after delivery to facilitate beginning breastfeeding immediately; to insist the baby not receive bottle feeding; to be informed about and refuse any drugs that may dry up breast milk; 24 hour access to the baby with the right to breastfeed at any time; access to help from specially trained breastfeeding support staff.
- When Leaving the Hospital: The right to refuse any gifts or take-home packets, distributed by the maternal healthcare facility, that contain commercial advertising or product samples; access to breastfeeding resources in one's community.
Want to know what the status of breastfeeding legislation in your state? Click on this page from the National Conference of State Legislatures. And La Leche League has a great summary of pending breastfeeding legislation by state here, which lists recent efforts in Alaska, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Texas, West Virginia, Wisconsin.
One thing I learned in politics is that it often takes a highly publicized, galvanizing event to make policy changes. So, if we finally get pro-breastfeeding legislation in Massachusetts, we may have Emily Gillette (and Delta/Freedom Airlines) to thank!