By Globe Staff
Mothers who want to breastfeed their children in public would get legal protection under a bill that received final approval from the Legislature today.
The bill, "An Act to Promote Breastfeeding," is headed to the governors desk after being enacted by the Senate, said Senator Susan Fargo, the Lincoln Democrat who championed the bill.
Currently, women who breastfeed their children in public could be prosecuted for indecent exposure or lewd conduct. If convicted, they could even be forced to register as sex offenders, Fargo said. The legislation authorizes breastfeeding in public places and makes it clear it is not illegal.
Massachusetts has been one of three states in the nation without such a law on the books.
"For something that's so healthy and so natural and supported by so many health groups, it just makes so much sense" to pass the protections for breastfeeding, Fargo said.
"No longer will mothers be forced to feed their children in the restroom of a restaurant or mall. ... Women who nurse should not be treated as second-class citizens," Representative David P. Linsky, a Framingham Democrat who pushed for the bill in the House, said in a statement.
Proponents say breastfeeding is healthier for kids and thus reduces healthcare costs.
The bill now heads to Governor Deval Patrick's desk. Fargo said she was confident he would sign it. No one answered the telephone this afternoon at the governorís press office.
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