Oh Where Oh Where is the Breastfeeding Promotion Act?

The presidential inauguration is only a few days away.  All of us have our list of priorities for the new administration.  Given the state of the economy and our war in Iraq (and on and on), I don’t hold out much hope that breastfeeding will get much Congressional attention early on.  Last year (and much of the year before) political attention was focused on the elections.  So again, I was not all that surprised when the Breastfeeding Promotion Act received so little Congressional attention.  But … well … when will it?

The Breastfeeding Promotion Act is a simple piece of federal legislation that should be pretty uncontroversial.  It amends the section of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 on employment to include lactation.  You know that law passed a year after I was born which prohibited discrimination on the basis of sex (and race and a few other ways one can not be a white man)?  Well, I am forty-five years old and U.S. federal courts still haven’t figured out what sex discrimination is.  So if you want to fire someone (or reduce her hours or pay her less or moo as she walks by or refuse to hire her in the first place) because she is breastfeeding, no problem.  The federal courts say breastfeeding discrimination is not discrimination on the basis of sex.

Nancy Watzman at Muckraking Mom has an interesting suggestion as to why the BPA hasn’t moved much since it was introduced – Congress isn’t talking about it.  Using a nifty search engine called Capitol Words she searched how often the word “breastfeeding” was used by Congresspeople (as reported in the Congressional Record).  The result is pretty grim.  Since the BPA was introduced in May of 2007, the word “breastfeeding” was used in Congress less than 30 times.  Watzman notes that “golf” was discussed more often.  I checked and during the same period it appeared a few hundred times.  For fun, I threw in “trout.”  Less than “golf,” but it was used about 200 times.

Breastfeeding discrimination is sex discrimination and the BPA is necessary for women to have Civil Rights Act protection.  Much needs to happen to move the BPA forward but clearly at the very least legislators need to be talking about breastfeeding.