Only three U.S. states have no public breastfeeding law – West Virginia, Idaho and Nebraska. Unfortunately the majority of state public breastfeeding laws don’t do a particularly good job of stopping harassment of women who breastfeed in public (this is where I tell you again to go read my feature in Mothering magazine called Lactation and the Law, remind you that “a right without a remedy is no right at all,” and tell you I have an update feature on U.S. breastfeeding law coming out in Mothering in probably the May/June issue).
On January 7th, Legislative Bill 197 was introduced in the Nebraska Legislature. The text is:
Section 1. Notwithstanding any other provision of law, a mother may breast-feed her child in any public or private location where the mother is otherwise authorized to be.
Introduced by State Senator Annette Dubas, it does not appear this bill, if passed, would confer any right, enforceable or otherwise. As written, this is a permission law. Women may breastfeeding in public and, it seems, other people may interfere with her ability to do that by telling her to leave or cover up. And it doesn’t appear there is anything the nursing woman would be able to do about it.
Since breastfeeding in public is not currently illegal in Nebraska, one must wonder why women need permission. They don’t. They need protection. And this bill doesn’t give protection.
Senator Dubas may not understand this is how public breastfeeding laws work. And it may be helpful if Nebraskans tell her what kind of public breastfeeding law Nebraska really needs.
Are you a Nebraskan? Have you nursed in public? Can you contact Senator Dubas, the bill’s co-sponsors and your own state senator and let them know Nebraska needs a public breastfeeding law that will really protect a right to breastfeed in public?
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- Jessie February 10, 2011 I agree that the laws (in all the states that do have them) could be better. But I also think *something* on the books about breastfeeding in public is better than nothing. I know it gives me an extra level of confidence to have that little slip of paper in my wallet with my state’s breastfeeding law printed on it, just in case anyone ever wants to try me. Since most people are ignorant of the laws, there’s a good chance that my having something official and sounding like I know what I’m talking about might just be enough to get them to back off.
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replied:February 10, 2011 But what about when you pull out that piece of paper and the store owner says, “I still have the right to have you removed as a trespasser” which is generally true with laws like this? Traumatized women who have been seduced into thinking they have rights they don’t actually have. I have seen it happen over and over. I argue that empty law do more harm than good.Also, once an empty law is in place the issue is rarely revisited legislatively. It isn’t a first step toward something better because states rarely go back and enact better public breastfeeding laws.I have seen women hurt and humiliating when they discover these laws don’t actually provide them any protection. reply
- Erin S March 19, 2011 I do think that breastfeeding should be fine to do in public! It is a natural thing, that was the only way mothers in the early ages fed their children. Just because it is uncomfortable for one person in public shouldn’t mean you have to stop feeding your child, if she or he is hungry feed them! Plain and simple! Just like if you are hungry, you eat, now why should your child have to be the exception? I think that if you are covered up and no one can see anything it shouldn’t be a problem! So Yes I do think that there needs to be a law saying it’s okay so no one will kick me out of somewhere, where I am feeding my baby girl! If she is hungry I WILL feed her and not make her wait till I’m at home! reply
- Ms. Smoochy May 10, 2011 Breastfeeding in NE! Not covering up in Nebraska! Calling my state senator tomorrow.
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- Ashley W
June 7, 2011 i was just, not even an hour ago, asked to feed my baby in the bathroom while at the water park…how do i go about contacting the right people to help make them aware of the protection laws i need?? im in columbus nebraska. reply
replied:June 7, 2011 I was in just in Omaha speaking about the new Nebraska public breastfeeding law. Unfortunately, it has no enforcement provision so there is no complaint you can file and no way to use that law to protect you ability to breastfeeding in public. However, I think it is a good idea to try and file a sex discrimination claim before the Nebraska Equal Opportunity Commission. http://www.neoc.ne.gov/ The website gives instructions for filing a complaint. Let me know how that goes. Feel free to email me: Jake at Jakemarcus dot com.