Of all of the concerns that I had when it comes to breastfeeding my daughter — her latch, my supply, etc. — someone seeing my boob was the least of them. But not everyone has that opinion. Just recently, Idaho and Utah legalized breastfeeding in public, as reported by Upworthy, officially making it legal in all 50 states. Perhaps unsurprisingly, there was some resistance to the legalization due to concerns of "modesty."
The great debate over whether or not women should be banished to the bathroom to feed their babies has been raging for years, prompting advocates to push for laws to protect mothers and their children. Such was the case in Utah, with Rep. Justin Fawson sponsoring the Breastfeeding Protection Act, according to Upworthy. The House Business and Labor Committee narrowly passed the act in February with a vote of 6-5 in favor of public breastfeeding.
Farrow told local news outlet KUER 90.1 that he was aiming to normalize breastfeeding. "I don't feel like we should ever relegate a mom to a restroom to breastfeed their child," he said. "That's a big reason why I'm running the bill. I'm seeking to further normalize breastfeeding and allow moms to feed their babies as needed." Can I get an "amen?"
The close vote in Utah was apparently due to concerns over modesty. While the original bill specified that uncovered feeding was legal, the final edition did not. Rep. R. Curt Webb was one of those in opposition to the right to feed uncovered. “But this seems to say you don't have to cover up at all," he told KUER. "[I'm] not comfortable with that at all, I'm just not. It's really in your face.” Um, okay.
As for Idaho, the new state law there passed without such resistance. The new bill, HB 448 was proposed by Rep. Paul Amador, R-Coeur d’Alene, who has a personal stake in the debate as the father of a 5-month-old son, according to the Idaho Statesman. It passed on a 66-0 vote with no debate. When proposing his bill, Amador explained that women were without protection in Idaho:
Unfortunately, Idaho is the one state that currently has no protections for breastfeeding mothers. Personally, I find it disappointing that we’re in 2018 and we still haven’t passed this law in Idaho.
He went on to explain that laws protecting breastfeeding mothers have numerous benefits for both mother and child, winning over both the House and my heart:
I think we can take a proactive stance here through legislation to promote the natural bond and health benefits of breastfeeding for both mother and child. I also believe the health and nutritional choices of our families are best left as decisions for our families, not our government.
Utah and Idaho round out the nation, making it legal to breastfeeding in all 50 states. While this is certainly good news for nursing mothers, one can't help but think "It's about damn time." The U.S. is late to the party when one considers that countries like Australia and the UK have laws in place to allow mothers to breastfeed in public without discrimination, while other countries like Nepal and much of Europe just widely accept breastfeeding in public without the need for specific legislation permitting it, according to Belly Belly.
The fact that a mother's right to feed her child how, when, and where she chooses has been up for debate for such a length of time is frankly shocking. The benefits of breastfeeding likely come as no surprise, but many still view it as a sexual act — made obvious by concerns of decency. Public opinion still has a long way to go towards normalizing breastfeeding in public, but making it legal is a step in the right direction.