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1643PA Breastfeeding Bill Final Passage

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    Jul 3, 2007

      Well, it is over. In considering SB 34, the Pennsylvania public breastfeeding bill, Representative Leach moved to have the House consider the bill without Representative Joseph's amendment. The amendment would have added a legal remedy for those who are injured by someone violating the law. Sadly, Representative Josephs agreed to have SB 34 voted on without her amendment, though she said on the House floor that she would return if there were continued incidents of harassment. The PA House of Representatives then voted unanimously to pass SB 34.

      The text of the bill, which the governor has already agreed to sign, is as follows:

      WHEREAS, There are benefits to the child, the mother and society by encouraging and enabling mothers to breastfeed their children; and WHEREAS, An infant who is breastfed receives protection against infection, illness and allergies, and long-term positive effects on the development, intelligence and health of breastfed children have been found; and
      WHEREAS, A protective effect against various types of cancer and greater emotional and physical health are found for mothers who breastfeed; and
      WHEREAS, Breastfeeding promotes sufficient birth spacing, improved vaccine effectiveness and decreased food and medical expenses, which all have positive societal effects; and
      WHEREAS, The Pennsylvania Supplemental Food Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) promotes breastfeeding education and support; and
      WHEREAS, Legislation to clarify the right to breastfeed is necessary to promote breastfeeding and remove any stumbling block from influencing a mother's decision to breastfeed or continue breastfeeding.

      The General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania hereby enacts as follows:
      Section 1. This act shall be known and may be cited as the Freedom to Breastfeed Act.
      Section 2. Declaration of policy.
      The General Assembly finds that breastfeeding a baby is an important and basic act of nurturing that must be protected in the interests of maternal and child health and family values.
      Section 3. General rule.
      A mother shall be permitted to breastfeed her child in any location, public or private, where the mother and child are otherwise authorized to be present, irrespective of whether or not the mother's breast is covered during or incidental to the breastfeeding.
      Right 4. freedom to breastfeed.
      The act of breastfeeding shall not be considered:
      (1) Indecent exposure as defined in 18 Pa.C.S. § 3127 (relating to indecent exposure).
      (2) Open lewdness as defined in 18 Pa.C. Section 5901
      (relating to open lewdness).
      (3) Obscenity or sexual conduct as defined in 18 Pa.C.S.
      § 5903 (relating to obscene and other sexual materials and
      (4) A nuisance as defined in 18 Pa.C.S. § 6504 (relating
      to public nuisances).
      Section 10. Effective date.
      This act shall take effect immediately.

      Unfortunately, this bill does not change the legal status of breastfeeding mothers in Pennsylvania. Hopefully, it will draw much needed attention to the needs of breastfeeding women and their children.

      Specifically, this law does not change the right of the owner of a public accommodation, a store or restaurant, to withdraw a woman's authorization to be there. If he does that, she can be arrested for trespass.

      As before, women who are harassed should be sure they are being asked to leave by the owner or person in the highest level of management in a space because only that person can withdraw her right to be there. A waitress or store clerk is not authorized to turn a woman into a trespasser. Police can only arrest for trespass if instructed to do so by the owner of the space.

      The section of the bill relating to obscenity crimes also does not change Pennsylvania law. The definition of crimes can only be changed by amending the crimes code, which this law does not do. However, no woman in Pennsylvania has ever been arrested for an obscenity offense while breastfeeding so this is not something a breastfeeding woman should fear.

      Now, as always, public breastfeeding is NOT illegal. No action can legally be taken against a breastfeeding woman unless and until her authorization to be in a space has been withdrawn by the owner.

      Thank you all for fighting so hard for a stronger law. I will continue to advocate on behalf of women who are harassed and will collect these stories so that we can return to the legislature in a future session.

      Jake Marcus