Before 2008, a woman who breastfeed her baby in public could be asked to go away. While most women have found that they could breastfeed their baby wherever they may be without harassment, sometimes women are not so well treated. In some cases, businesses deny service to women who are breastfeeding. There are many places where a woman can be (though fortunately virtually never is) charged with indecent exposure for breastfeeding in public. And some women find difficulty with their employers because they want time or space to breastfeed.
Therefore, this Firm began advocating for a change in DC law. We made a proposal to protect a woman’s right to breastfeed at any public place where she is entitled to be. Our proposal put in law a clear statement that a woman is not engaged in public indecency if she breastfeeds. Our proposal requires employers to make reasonable efforts to find a sanitary and private space for a woman to breastfeed. And our law allosw women the opportunity (though not the obligation) to defer jury service if they are breastfeeding.
At our urging Councilmember Jim Graham introduced the breastfeeding protection act on Tuesday, March 6, 2007. The bill was aptly titled, “The Child’s Right to Nurse Human Rights Amendment Act of 2007.” Councilmembers Schwartz, Barry, and Brown all cointroduced the Bill. Councilmembers Cheh, Wells, Gray, Catania, and Evans later cosponsored the Bill. The Bill was passed and is now the law in the District of Columbia, and it is not only among the most powerful breastfeeding protection laws in the nation, but it also has one of the most powerful enforcement mechanisms. None of this would be possible but for the support of the hundreds of folks who called and emailed their councilmembers on this important Bill.
“I myself had an upsetting incident in the waiting room of the lab that
our pediatrician uses. I was comforting my screaming baby who had just
had a difficult blood draw, by breastfeeding him. Imagine my surprise
when the reception called angrily, “You can’t do that here.” Just then
a little girl came into the room with her mother and came over to me,
wanting to see the baby, and the receptionist started yelling at her (I
suppose she was trying to spare her from witnessing breastfeeding.) By
this time everyone was upset. I think this sort of legislation would
help to change the kind of negative attitudes that persist.”— Testimonial from a DC mom