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Breastfeeding Laws: Public Breastfeeding OK?

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By Cynthia Hsu, Esq. on July 05, 2011 1:01 PM

Should there be breastfeeding laws? And, should breastfeeding in public be a protected right?

Maybe it should, given the stigma and the difficulties some women face in breastfeeding their children. In one case, a Detroit mother, Afrykayn Moon, was nursing her 2-week old infant on a public bus. She was asked to leave the bus after the bus driver told her to either cover up or get off.

In Michigan, breastfeeding laws protect women from indecent exposure charges. But, they do not protect women from discrimination, reports the Detroit Free Press. What states do - and don't - protect women and to what extent?

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, there are about 45 states that have laws that specifically allow women to breastfeed in public. Twenty-eight states exempt women from public indecency charges if they breastfeed in public. And, 24 states have more laws that allow breastfeeding women to do so in the workplace. Twelve states have laws that exempt breastfeeding mothers from jury duty.

And lastly, five states and Puerto Rico, including California, Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri and Vermont, have encouraged breastfeeding through education awareness and other public campaigns.

Breastfeeding laws vary from state to state. Some states specifically allow public breastfeeding. And, as odd as it seems some states even have laws about the distribution, use or procurement of human breast milk.

There is also federal law requiring employers to give certain breaks to mothers who wish to breastfeed their children.

In Michigan, legislators are now thinking of introducing more legislation on breastfeeding laws to protect nursing mothers from discrimination. And, in response to Moon's discrimination on the bus for breastfeeding in public, the Black Mothers Breast Feeding Association, which Moon is a member of, staged a nurse-in to protest the bus driver's actions.

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