Seattle Ponders Breastfeeding Protection Law

Citing the potentially decreased minority infant mortality rates and the well known benefits of breastfeeding as a general matter, a Seattle city council member introduced a new pro-breastfeeding measure. The law would make it a crime to ask a breastfeeding mother to stop nursing her child, or to ask her to go to another location to do so. The law would actually make breastfeeding in public a civil right.

While Washington state already has a similar law in place, mothers claim that local businesses ignore the laws, and they feel that their rights are being impinged upon. I realize that this type of law may seem drastic to those who do not currently know anyone that is breastfeeding their child, or who has not confronted any challenges to their decision regarding how they feel their child.

I am guessing that aside from using this law as a protection against mothers who may feel self-conscious about breastfeeding and then decide to stop doing so, even if they might otherwise like to continue doing so--everyone knows this is a sensitive subject in the U.S.--absent a criminal or other additional protection, if a mother's rights are violated, she has no legal recourse. A business owner makes you leave his store even though you legally have the right to breastfeed there? Too bad. Pass a law like this, and you are thereby able to have your pre-existing legal right actually respected (and upheld). I think that is probably the real motivation behind this law.

You may remember that a group of angry mothers recently engaged in a "nurse-in" in several Target locations, after a young mother was harassed by a group of workers as she tried to nurse her baby. I personally look forward to the day when news stories don't have to focus on these breastfeeding laws or stories because they are a non-issue, those who nurse do, and those who don't leave them alone and walk on.