Assembly OK’s right to breast-feed in public

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

RICHMOND, Va. – Women across Virginia can rejoice now that both houses of the General Assembly have unanimously passed legislation that would protect the right of mothers to breast-feed in public.

“Thank you so much, Senator Wexton, for being a critical force in moving this common-sense legislation forward into a law that will support and protect women, children, and families across the Commonwealth,” one woman wrote on Sen. Jennifer Wexton’s Facebook page.

Wexton, D-Leesburg, proposed Senate Bill 1427, which states, “A mother may breastfeed in any place where the mother is lawfully present, including any location where she would otherwise be allowed on property that is owned, leased, or controlled by the Commonwealth.”

The Senate voted 38-0 in favor of the bill Monday.

On Friday, the House voted 99-0 to approve an identical measure – HB 1499, introduced by Del. Dave Albo, R-Springfield.

With the law’s passage assured, an outpouring of approval flooded social media.

“An excellent bill. I wasn’t aware Virginia was one of three states with Stone Age laws prohibiting feeding your child in public. Thank you,” another commenter posted on Wexton’s Facebook wall.

Virginia, South Dakota and Idaho are the only states that restrict breast-feeding in public. Under existing Virginia law, women have a right to breast-feeding only on state property.

“This is behavior elected officials should be encouraging, not discouraging,” Wexton said. “I am very happy to sponsor this legislation.”

Albo said he decided to file his bill after a constituent suggested the issue to him. Under the legislation, Albo said, a business could not ban a woman from its premises solely for breast-feeding.

While many individuals are excited about the legislation, others are upset that bills protecting breast-feeding would even be necessary.

“It’s a sad world we live in when we have to have legislation to be certain we can nurse our babies when they are hungry,” a woman posted on Albo’s Facebook page. “Thank you for making this a priority.”

This is not the first time the issue of breast-feeding has been brought before the General Assembly. In 1994, legislators passed a bill that exempted breast-feeding mothers from being charged with indecent exposure. And in 2002, the assembly approved a resolution encouraging employers to provide “reasonable unpaid break time” and a suitable location for breast-feeding mothers.

By Meghan Gaffney/Capital News Service
Capital News Service is a flagship program of the VCU School of Mass Communications. Students participating in the program provide state government coverage for Virginia’s community newspapers and other media outlets, under the supervision of Associate Professor Jeff South.