Recently, I came across this link, which summarizes the laws of the 50 states (plus D.C., Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands) as relates to breastfeeding:
- Forty-three states, the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands have laws with language specifically allowing women to breastfeed in any public or private location (Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Washington and Wyoming).
- Twenty-eight states, the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands exempt breastfeeding from public indecency laws (Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin and Wyoming).
- Twenty-four states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico have laws related to breastfeeding in the workplace (Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Maine, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and Wyoming).
- Twelve states and Puerto Rico exempt breastfeeding mothers from jury duty (California, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Oregon and Virginia).
- Five states and Puerto Rico have implemented or encouraged the development of a breastfeeding awareness education campaign (California, Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri and Vermont).
Several states have unique laws related to breastfeeding. For instance,
- The state of Virginia allows women to breastfeed on any land or property owned by the state. Puerto Rico requires shopping malls, airports, public service government centers and other select locations to have accessible areas designed for breastfeeding and diaper changing that are not bathrooms.
- At least two states have laws related to child care facilities and breastfeeding. Louisiana prohibits any child care facility from discriminating against breastfed babies. Mississippi requires licensed child care facilities to provide breastfeeding mothers with a sanitary place that is not a toilet stall to breastfeed their children or express milk, to provide a refrigerator to store expressed milk, to train staff in the safe and proper storage and handling of human milk, and to display breastfeeding promotion information to the clients of the facility.
- California requires the Department of Public Health to develop a training course of hospital policies and recommendations that promote exclusive breastfeeding and specify staff for whom this model training is appropriate. The recommendation is targeted at hospitals with exclusive patient breastfeeding rates ranked in the lowest twenty-five percent of the state.
- Maryland exempts the sale of tangible personal property that is manufactured for the purpose of initiating, supporting or sustaining breastfeeding from the sales and use tax.
- California, New York and Texas have laws related to the procurement, processing, distribution or use of human milk.
Following this, the website lists the actual statutes, which is a handy reference.
I was refreshed to see that my state (Mississippi) was on almost every one of these. I was actually afraid that it was one of the places where women might be accused of public indecency for breastfeeding. If your state does not have such a statute, perhaps you can contact your state legislators to see if they can get it on the books. It is pretty bad that only 12 states specifically exempt a breastfeeding woman from jury duty. While I daresay that some judges can and will dismiss a woman who pleads breastfeeding for a reason to get out of jury duty, I have heard cases where women have been forced to serve. This may not be horrible for a single day, but imagine if it were one of those trials that drag on for weeks or even months! And I’m not just talking about the baby having to be given formula, if the mother couldn’t pump enough breastmilk, but just the sheer discomfort of being a woman who goes from nursing her baby on demand to pumping on rare jury breaks. Makes me hurt just thinking of it!
If you really want to get the ear of your state legislator, one way to do it is to volunteer in his or her election or reelection campaign. This year is likely an off election year for most states, but just a little tip for next time. If you get to know the legislator, and volunteer your time for his or her election efforts, then you won’t be just a name or just a face when you go to ask him or her to support or sponsor legislation you would like to go through.