Saturday, 2:15 PM
Outlaws no more, breastfeeding mothers get legal protection
By Martin Finucane, Globe Staff
They won't be outlaws anymore. Mothers who want to breastfeed their children in public are getting legal protection under a new state law that goes into effect Thursday.
The law, "An Act to Promote Breastfeeding," was passed last year and signed earlier this year by Governor Deval Patrick.
Up till now, women who breastfed their babies in public could have been prosecuted for indecent exposure or lewd conduct. If convicted, they could even have been forced to register as sex offenders, proponents of the bill said.
The new law authorizes breastfeeding in public places and makes it clear it is not illegal.
"This law is a long time in coming. The idea behind this law is to make sure that women who want to breastfeed their children aren't prevented from doing that. And the message should go out that security guards and storekeepers and even police officers don't have the right to prevent a woman from breastfeeding her child," said Representative David Linsky, a Natick Democrat who backed the bill.
State Senator Susan Fargo, a Lincoln Democrat, said she was pleased to finally see passage of a bill that she first filed nine years ago.
"First of all, there are significant health benefits for mother and child," she said, emphasizing that improvements in people's health would lead to lower healthcare costs.
"There also are [legal] protections for mothers. I think that's the thing we've been fighting for for a long time," she said.