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Would You Eat Lunch in the Toilet Room? Why Should Babies? Patch Poll

The chairman of the House Judiciary Committee says he supports the right of breastfeeding mothers to nurse their babies in public and wants to “get it right," but worries about unintended consequences.

Should nursing mothers be allowed to breastfeed their infants in public places? Take the Patch Poll. (Patch file photo)
Should nursing mothers be allowed to breastfeed their infants in public places? Take the Patch Poll. (Patch file photo)

Legislation that would make Michigan the 46th state to allow breastfeeding in public sailed through the state Senate late last year, only to languish in the House of Representatives for about five months.

Shannon Polk and other members of the Michigan Breastfeeding Network are stymied by the lack of action on the bill and lobbied at the Capitol in Lansing last week to ask why, MLive reports.

“Women have a right to breastfeed in public,” she said. “We don’t ask anyone else to eat in a bathroom or eat under a blanket.”

The newspaper said Polk wondered aloud if the outcome would be different if a man weren’t managing the bill.

House Judiciary Committee chair Rep. Kevin Cotter, R-Mount Pleasant, said he supports the bill that make it illegal for restaurants and businesses to show breastfeeding mothers the door, but put enabling legislation on hold because he wants “to get it right.”

Cotter worries there will be unintended legal consequences, such as the a Catch-22 position a restaurant or other business could be put in if a customer complained about a breast-feeding mother. If the woman were asked to stop nursing or leave, the business could be sued. If the business declined to take action, a customer might sue. 

“What are the teeth in this bill?” he said.

Specifically, the legislation under consideration would prohibit businesses from asking breastfeeding mothers to leave their establishments, and from publishing notices or posting signs that say breastfeeding is prohibited. It would also allow a woman who was asked to leave because she was breastfeeding to file a civil action against the business and seek damages of $200.

Support for the bill may be the first time Right to Life Michigan and Planned Parenthood have ever agreed on anything. Both organizations support the pending legislation, as do a host of physician organizations who see it as a public health issue, the Detroit Free Press reported last winter.

This raises the question:

  • Do you support or oppose legislation that would prohibit businesses from asking breastfeeding mothers to leave their businesses or move the activity into a public restroom. Take the poll and tell us what you think in the comments.

floriv1 May 13, 2014 at 10:28 AM
There are many things in life that are natural, however, it doesn't mean we should do them in public. I breastfed all 3 of my children. When in public I always found an inconspicuous, non bathroom, area and always brought a blanket or covering so as not to be exposed to the public. There are as many health risks with breastfeeding in a public, non bathroom areas too.
Lari K May 13, 2014 at 07:45 PM
floriv1: And this legislation would protect your right to nurse your child in that "inconspicuous, non bathroom area". Even women who move to "inconspicuous" areas and cover themselves with a blanket get asked to leave. The problem isn't that women are indiscreet. The problems is that people don't like the *thought* of breastfeeding--even when they can't see a thing. So perfectly covered women such as yourself still have their rights violated.
Lari K May 13, 2014 at 08:11 PM
(Cont'd.) Also, the public health issue mentioned in the article isn't a problem with bathroom germs. The public health issue is that formula feeding is associated with higher rates of infections, childhood obesity, diabetes, leukemia, and sudden infant death syndrome. For mothers, formula feeding is associated with an increased incidence of premenopausal breast cancer, ovarian cancer, diabetes, myocardial infarction, and the metabolic syndrome. Breastfeeding rates in the United States are already well below the CDC, World Health Organization and American Academy of Pediatrics goals and recommendations. And Michigan's rates are even lower still. Making women feel that they can't leave their homes with their breastfed baby unless they bring along a bottle of formula contributes to many women quitting breastfeeding or--worse yet--not even starting. THIS is why protecting the rights of breastfeeding women is a public health issue!

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