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Seattle weighs law to make breastfeeding a civil right

The City of Seattle is debating new legislation to protect nursing mothers from being asked to leave public establishments when breastfeeding. Elisa Hahn reports.

The City of Seattle is considering a law that would make breastfeeding a civil right, the SeattlePI.com reported. If passed, it would be illegal to ask a mother to stop breastfeeding, to cover up or move to another location.

The law was introduced by Councilmember Bruce Harrell who argued that breastfeeding could reduce infant mortality rates among minorities. In Seattle, American Indian and African Americans have infant mortality rates two times higher than other groups.

"If we change cultural norms, that people realize it's important to have a healthy Seattle, that people will breastfeed in public areas, it begins the conversation as to why," Harrell said, according to KING 5 TV.


Following a city council discussion about the measure Wednesday afternoon, a dozen mothers gathered for a “feed-in,” according to KING 5

A similar law has been in effect in Washington State since 2009, but breastfeeding advocates say that a local law would bolster its power, the SeattlePI.com reported.

Since the state law was passed, three mothers have filed complaints with the state’s Human Rights Commission, according to the P-I. One woman was asked to leave a physical therapist’s waiting room, another was told to stop breastfeeding at a Head Start facility, and the third was breastfeeding at the Sol Duc Hot Springs.

Other states, too, have given nursing women specific protections. In New York, infants may accompany their mothers to prison if their mothers are nursing them when she is committed. Nursing mothers in Virginia may breastfeed on any land or property owned by the state. And in Maryland, equipment for breastfeeding is exempt from sales tax.

Exclusive breastfeeding may be too hard, study finds

The laws are part of a national effort to encourage women to nurse their children. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, about three-quarters of women start breastfeeding after birth, but fewer than 15 percent of those mothers continue to breastfeed exclusively six months later. The Healthy People 2020 initiative aims to increase the percentage of nursing mothers to 81.9 percent by 2020.

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