Seattle law to protect breastfeeding moves on to final vote

Apr 5, 2012

About a dozen women testified in favor yesterday of the Seattle City Council proposed rule to add protection for breastfeeding mothers.

A committee considering the new law voted 3-0 to pass it onto the full council, which will vote on the bill on Monday. The committee is expecting unanimous support of the bill.

Julie Nelson, Director of  Seattle Office for Civil Rights, commented when she was presenting the legislation to Seattle City Council's Public Safety, Civil Rights and Technology Committee:

"This legislation is important because it will provide better customer service to the women of Seattle."

Alice Enevoldsen - testified with her baby daughter who's one year old next week. She said being a mom is rewarding but it's also really hard and when she's asked to leave to breastfeed someplace else, she gets frustrated:

"You ask me to leave to go somewhere (to breastfeed) where I can't be with the rest of my family, like a bathroom or a dressing room where I can't be with my husband. Maybe I'm out to dinner somewhere. You've just made being a mom and breastfeeding that much harder." 

She went on to ask the committee to "please make my life easier."

The city's law would augment the statewide law, which advocates say doesn’t do enough to protect breastfeeding moms from discrimination.

Councilmember Bruce Harrell, chair of the Seattle City Council’s Public Safety, Civil Rights and Technology Committee, introduced legislation from the Seattle Women’s Commission to protect a mother’s right to breastfeed her child in places of public accommodation free from discrimination.

Seattlepi.com reports that advocates say a local law is needed to strengthen the state law because many businesses, ranging from cafes to daycares, have asked mothers to leave or cover up their baby, despite the law. And women have reported being told to sequester themselves in a smelly bathroom to feed their child. Three mothers have filed discrimination complaints with the state Human Rights Commission since the law was passed.

"We need to get to the point where breastfeeding is accepted by everybody," one advocate told the PI. "It's feeding your baby for heaven's sake.”

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