WA State Fights Boobophobia

When I read the news that Washington State Rep. Tami Green was sponsoring legislation to make it legal to breastfeed in "places of public accommodation," I have to admit that my first response was, "You mean it isn't already legal?" Forty states, including Texas, Alabama, and Mississippi, allow mothers to breastfeed in public. But not Washington, my home state and one of the bluest states in the nation. Green's proposal would rectify that, by stipulating that any restriction on the right to breastfeed in public constitutes discrimination.

Why now? From the looks of it, breastfeeding mothers simply haven't been a priority for Washington legislators in the past. Looking back at previous years' legislation, the only proposal I come up with is a bill "encouraging employers to be infant-friendly," later amended to the somewhat voyeuristic title "studying breastfeeding women in the workplace." That bill, which had only a handful of sponsors, died in 2005.

Yes, it's hard to believe we're still talking about this. On the other hand, as long as social-networking sites classify breastfeeding photos as "obscene content"; as long as celebrities get called "udderly icky" and "addicts" and worse for "still" breastfeeding their year-old infants; and as long as the response to proposals like Green's range from "OMG! Boobies!" to "as long as they restrict it to HAWT chicks" (wade into the comments at the Seattle Times at your own peril), we're gonna keep talking about it.

Green and her cosponsors were in a meeting all morning, so I wasn't able to ask what inspired her to push this legislation now. UPDATE: One of the bill's cosponsors, state Rep. Zack Hudgins of Seattle, says he hasn't heard any opposition yet to the proposal, which will have its first committee hearing on February 12. However, he says, the Washington State Legislature "isn't the most family friendly place." Hudgins recalls that when he was first elected in 2002, the state Capitol lacked any diaper-changing facilities. Although that changed in 2003, the building still doesn't have any place for women to breastfeed or express milk. "Their response was that women should just use the restrooms, which is a bad answer," he says.

"We’ve got 10,000 years of evolution saying that breastfeeding works. Motherhood is as American as apple pie and Chevrolet, yet we still discriminate" against breastfeeding moms, Hudgins says.

In the Times story, state legislator Lynn Kessler's response to people who think breastfeeding is obscene was even more succinct:

"Grow up." Amen, sister.

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