Capital News Service

of the Michigan State University School of Journalism

House may resolve flap over breast-feeding in public

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By MEHAK BANSIL
Capital News Service

LANSING—Mary Martinez was nursing her newborn baby daughter in a Harper Woods Target store in November when a security guard told her to leave. When she told him it wasn’t illegal, he called the police and Martinez was escorted out of the store.

Martinez’s story isn’t uncommon. Rep. Rebekah Warren, D-Ann Arbor, has heard plenty like it.

In an effort to prevent similar incidents, Warren is sponsoring a bill that would protect a woman’s right to breast-feed in public and prohibit practices that discriminate against a woman for breast-feeding. For example, a woman breast-feeding in a store couldn’t be asked to leave.

“It’s not some new radical idea,” Warren said, noting that 43 states already have laws protecting breast-feeding.

She said the problem isn’t whether public breast-feeding is improper but whether it’s illegal.

Current law leaves the question up to counties and municipalities. Local governments have the option of prohibiting public nudity within their jurisdiction, but breast-feeding is usually not mentioned in such laws.

“I think a lot of businesses would welcome it because it eliminates the ambiguity in the law,” Warren said.

Donna Organek, the leader of the North Macomb County La Leche League, said she agrees with Warren’s statement that public breast-feeding isn’t improper. The group is part of the international organization that supports a breast-feeding.

“I see far more breast tissue on women who wear low-cut blouses than on women who are breast-feeding,” Organek said.

However, Reps. Tonya Schuitmaker, R-Lawton, and Justin Amash, R-Kentwood, said they opposed the bill in committee because they believe a woman’s right to breastfeed shouldn’t be elevated to the same level as civil rights, according to Rebecca Devooght, Schuitmaker’s chief of staff.

The bill is pending in the House.

© 2009, Capital News Service, Michigan State University School of Journalism. Not to be reproduced without permission.

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