A new law signed by Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell (D) gives women more rights and protections when breastfeeding in public. Governor Rendell signed the bill Monday, ensuring that a woman who breastfeeds in public cannot be accused of obscenity, indecent exposure, sexual conduct, or causing a nuisance. Breastfeeding advocates are pleased with the new law, though some concessions were made. The original wording of the bill said that a woman had the “right” to breastfeed; after opposition from state Republicans, the phrase was changed to say that a woman has “the freedom to nurse her child,” the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports. Additionally, an amendment giving women the right to sue anyone who harasses or criticizes them for breastfeeding publicly was dropped.
The bill was introduced following an incident earlier this year in which a woman was kicked out of a shopping mall for breastfeeding her infant. Local activist mothers of infants turned out in front of the state capitol building to stage a “nurse-in” in support of better laws and protections.
La Leche League, an education and support organization promoting breastfeeding, points out that general public discomfort in the US with breastfeeding is ironic since “most breastfeeding women reveal much less skin while breastfeeding than the average jeans commercial reveals.” Holly Cox, a local La Leche League organizer, told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, “I would like to think that [the new bill] would help mothers feel more confident about breastfeeding in public’ Anything along these lines is definitely a step in the right direction.”
Currently, 39 states have laws protecting women’s right to publicly breastfeed.