Saturday, March 13, 2010

Legal Lactation

I found a great article on about the legal issues surrounding breastfeeding, and I realized that I didn't know Illinois' state laws. I researched a little bit and found a list of breastfeeding laws by state organized by the National Coalition of State Legislators. Here are Illinois' laws:

Ill. Rev. Stat. ch. 705 § 305/10.3 (2005) amends the Jury Act. Provides that any mother nursing her child shall, upon her request, be excused from jury duty. (Ill. Laws, P.A. 094-0391, SB 517)

Ill. Rev. Stat. ch. 720 § 5/11-9 (1995) clarifies that breastfeeding of infants is not an act of public indecency. (SB 190)

Ill. Rev. Stat. ch. 740 § 137 (2004) creates the Right to Breastfeed Act. The law provides that a mother may breastfeed her baby in any location, public or private, where the mother is otherwise authorized to be; a mother who breastfeeds in a place of worship shall follow the appropriate norms within that place of worship. (SB 3211)

Ill. Rev. Stat. ch. 820 § 260 (2001) creates the Nursing Mothers in the Workplace Act. Requires that employers provide reasonable unpaid break time each day to employees who need to express breast milk. The law also requires employers to make reasonable efforts to provide a room or other location, other than a toilet stall, where an employee can express her milk in privacy. (SB 542)

While that first law may not excite most new moms, I was thrilled! Just the day before, I received another Jury Summons in the mail. A few months ago (about 4 now!), I used my bed rest as an excuse to skip jury duty. I really didn't think that Cook County would be "with it" enough to send me another summons so quickly, but they did. Thanks to good timing, I discovered that I won't have to serve because I am nursing. My request for exemption in writing went in the mail today.
I also feel empowered knowing that I'm legally protected breastfeeding "in any location, public or private." I'm the type of mom who tries to cover while nursing in public, and I don't anticipate ever needing to let anyone know about my right in heated debate, but the legal support is still appreciated.
Illinois is one of the few states with laws that specifically protect breastfeeding mothers. I had often wondered what specifically "lactivists" were striving to accomplish. I realize now the importance of legal protection to breastfeed when and where needed, and that my own right to do so was surely provided by the work of lactivists in Illinois. To all those women, thank you. And not just for getting me out of jury duty.

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