Jury Duty And Nursing In Public

Breastfeeding is a protected right in most states, including Missouri, but one lawmaker is seeking to change the language for that state’s citizens.

Baby sleeping and breastfeeding

Missouri, like most other states in America, has laws written to specifically protect the rights of breastfeeding mothers who need to nurse in public, but the language is unclear and open to interpretation -- and other additions have been proposed as well.

Proposals

Missouri law guarantees the following right for nursing mothers:

Section 191.918.: Notwithstanding any other provision of law to the contrary, a mother may, with as much discretion as possible, breast-feed her child in any public or private location where the mother is otherwise authorized to be.

Missouri State Senator Rob Schaaf has sent a proposal to the Missouri Senate with new lanauage and additional provisions for breastfeeding mothers. The bill will exempt nursing mothers from jury duty and completely exempt breastfeeding mothers from public indecency laws -- something the current law doesn’t do.

“Discretion”

The issue with the law as it’s written is the use of the word “discretion.” Discretion is a relative term and totally subject to individual interpretation -- what one may find discreet, another may not. The proposed changes will eliminate confusion and barriers new moms may face when attempting to breastfeed their baby in public.

The law also will exempt breastfeeding mothers from jury duty.

Monica's take

These changes are not only necessary, but far behind what should have already been done. I have over eight years of breastfeeding experience (four total children) and I have never been approached or commented on by strangers in public -- but it can and still does happen to other moms.

To be honest, I had never given the law, as it was written, a second’s notice. If my child was needing to nurse, I nursed him or her, without flash or fanfare. Nursing covers, I found, were often more of an eyesore and a hinderance than me simply sitting there nursing my baby -- as far as I knew, nobody could even tell what was going on.

And jury duty can be impossible if you’re breastfeeding. Yes, many babies can take a bottle of pumped breast milk, but not all do, and not all moms have a breast pump or can pump effectively with one.

Here’s hoping that the proposal gains momentum and becomes a law to catch up with the other states -- you can read here what the breastfeeding laws are in your state.

More on breastfeeding

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Breastfeeding as a working mom
Judged for breastfeeding -- or not

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