Michigan moms who breastfeed their babies in public places now have the power of the law behind them. Gov. Rick Snyder signed legislation on June 24 designed to protect the rights of nursing women.
Dubbed the "Breast-feeding Antidiscrimination Act," the new law – officially Public Acts 197-199 of 2014 – has two major pieces.
The first is designed to ban "discriminatory practices, polices and customs" when it comes to breastfeeding, according to Senate Bill 674, sponsored by Sen. Rebekah Warren (D-Ann Arbor). It applies to any place that offers goods or services to the public, including restaurants, entertainment/recreation venues, health-service providers, transportation facilities and schools. And if a nursing mom is ousted or denied service? She can file a civil suit, which, if the case winds up in her favor, ensures $200 in presumed damages at minimum. The breast-feeding party could also be awarded some or all of her court costs, the law notes.
In tandem, House Bills 5591 and 5592 also passed. This legislation, sponsored by Rep. Amanda Price (R-Park Lake), says moms who breast-feed or pump breast milk in public are not guilty of "indecent or obscene conduct … regardless of whether the woman's areola or nipple was visible during or incidental to the breast-feeding or expressing of breast milk."
"Breastfeeding is a natural act with many proven benefits," Snyder said in a press release. "By supporting new mothers, we help ensure good infant health, reduce infant mortality rates and prevent obesity."
We're also catching up. A full 46 states already have laws that protect breast-feeding women in public locations, according to the latest update from the National Conference of State Legislatures. And Snyder's office notes that the bills addressing indecent exposure bring us in line "with the laws of 27 other states."
For many Michigan moms, it's a bright – if overdue – show of support. As Warren told MLive.com, she hopes the act "will start a culture change so that our mothers feel comfortable nursing their babies wherever they're allowed to be."