LANSING - State Representative Rashida Tlaib (D-Detroit) and State Senator Rebekah Warren (D-Ann Arbor) have introduced legislation to protect women from discrimination while breastfeeding in public. State Representative Douglas A. Geiss (D-Taylor) is a cosponsor of the bill. Warren introduced a similar plan last year as a member of the Michigan House of Representatives, which Tlaib cosponsored.
“There are proven health benefits for both babies and mothers who breastfeed, and it’s unfortunate that it still carries an unfair stigma in our society,” Tlaib said. “We should be encouraging moms to breastfeed their infants, not discouraging it by unfairly judging and discriminating against nursing mothers. I hope that our plan will not only protect the rights of our residents, but also raise awareness about the benefits of breastfeeding and change opinions about nursing in public.”
The lawmakers’ plan would amend the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act to protect women who are breastfeeding in public and prohibit businesses from denying a woman service or accommodation because she is breastfeeding. The plan would also prevent businesses from making it clear that a woman’s patronage or presence is objectionable, unwelcome, unacceptable or undesirable because she is breastfeeding a child.
The issue of breastfeeding in public has regained national attention after a bus driver asked a Taylor mom to either cover up or leave a public bus last Friday while she was nursing her two-week-old son. The bus driver then refused to leave the bus stop until the infant was done feeding, according to the Detroit Free Press.
“The recent events in Taylor are just another example of why we need affirmative breastfeeding protections for Michigan’s mothers and children,” Warren said. “I am proud to stand with families across the state to introduce Senate Bill 554 to protect breastfeeding in public places as a civil right and challenge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to act surely and swiftly to ensure such an injustice does not happen again.”
Michigan is one of 28 states that already protect mothers who are breastfeeding from public indecency laws, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
“I cannot believe that something so natural as breastfeeding continues to cause alarm and ridicule in our modern society,” Geiss said. “The unfair treatment Afrykayn Moon received last week highlights the need to complete legislation to protect the rights of all mothers in the State of Michigan from harassment while breastfeeding their babies.”