Breastfeeding is Now Officially Legal in All 50 States and Why Did That Take So Long Again?
In news this morning (that should not really be news), we are happy to announce that breastfeeding is now officially legal in all 50 states in the United States, yay!
If breastfeeding is now legal in all 50 states, that means that there was a time when breastfeeding wasn't legal?
Apparently, and unfortunately, the answer to that is yes.
Although most of the U.S. states had long ago announced that breastfeeding was legal to do anywhere, anytime (how nice of lawmakers to let babies be fed, right?), two states in particular–Idaho and Utah– had held out and maintained that legally, babies should only be fed when it was convenient for other people and most definitely not exposed (horror of horrors!) in public.
Insert biggest eye-roll ever here.
Thankfully, however, those days are officially and legally over. Idaho first made the leap into supporting breastfeeding publicly in February, thanks to a unanimous 66-0 vote in its favor. The move was a very positive one, concerning the previous stance of male lawmakers in the state, who publicly expressed their concern about allowing legal breastfeeding to interfere with them being able to enjoy their own meals at a nice restaurant or one Rep.'s concern that a woman could just “whip it out and do it anywhere.”
Yup. He really said that.
And in the last holdout for breastfeeding, in March of 2018, Utah signed a new adapted law into effect that updated its previous stance on public breastfeeding. One of the most important changes to the breastfeeding laws concerned the specific language of Utah's former bill, which was changed to essentially say that a woman has the right to breastfeed whether or not she is covered. You know, because most people, babies included, don't enjoy eating their meals with a blanket over their heads. But some Utah lawmakers were really, really concerned that all that breastfeeding might lead to a boob free-for-all for women who were just looking for an excuse to show some skin.
“This seems to say you don’t have to cover up at all,” Rep. Curt Webb, R-Logan said in a hearing, as reported by the New York Times. “I’m not comfortable with that, I’m just not. It’s really in your face.”
Fortunately, in the end, Rep. Logan's comfort level was not trumped by a baby's right to be able to eat when he/she needs to, and in March, Utah signed the full law into effect, noting that all women have the right to breastfeed in public, covered or uncovered. Some of the lawmakers, including an attorney who was breastfeeding at the time of the discussion, pointed out to the males who were arguing against the bill, that breasts are a part of a woman's body just like a man's beard can be — so unless they wanted to make a law banning beards in public, there is nothing immoral or indecent about a breast.
They also noted how important the breastfeeding protection is for mothers in their state of Utah, which is known for being family-friendly and having high birth rates. With all of the research that proves how beneficial breastfeeding is, it's more important than ever to show women, mothers, and families that the government fully and actively supports mothers' efforts to nurse their babies too, to help encourage breastfeeding rates, which in turn, benefits all of society. Which, of course, is what all states should be encouraging. Public and legal breastfeeding isn't just about the law that “allows” women to feed their babies without fear of someone calling the cops on them or complaining about their own meal being interrupted, but it also is a very real gesture that shows that as a society, we are supportive of mothers and their efforts to do what they feel is best for their children.
The full passage of all 50 states allowing legal protection for breastfeeding puts the U.S. on par, finally, with other countries that have supported nursing in public, such as the U.K. and Austria. So ladies, you now have full and legal permission to do your breastfeeding thing without worry — in other words, “whip it out and do it anywhere.” Just like those lawmakers once feared, right? Because I can't think of anything worse than a mom being able to feed her baby wherever she happens to be.