What if Rosa Parks Had Been Breastfeeding on the Bus? Breastfeeding is a Civil Right

Civil Rights has come a long way in this country, and it still has a long way to go. From Rosa Parks to Martin Luther King, American history is filled with heroes that advocated for Civil Rights. Now, add Seattle moms to the list.

What would have happened if Rosa Parks would have been breastfeeding on the bus? Would breastfeeding be a civil right?

Seattle, Washington is considering a law that would protect a women and baby’s right to breastfeed. The law would make it illegal to ask a woman to cover up, stop breastfeeding, or move to another location.

The Seattle Times explains:

Under the proposed ordinance, mothers can breast-feed at a time, place and in the manner they choose. They do not have to go to a restroom. They do not have to cover the baby with a blanket or towel. The owner, manager or employee of a store, restaurant or other public place cannot request that the mother move or leave.

Nelson said that individuals who feel their rights have been violated would be able to file a charge with the Civil Rights Office, which would investigate the complaint and could assess a fine.

Out of curiosity, I looked up the legal definition of civil rights.  According to the Cornell University Law School:

A civil right is an enforceable right or privilege, which if interfered with by another gives rise to an action for injury. Examples of civil rights are freedom of speech, press, and assembly; the right to vote; freedom from involuntary servitude; and the right to equality in public places. Discrimination occurs when the civil rights of an individual are denied or interfered with because of their membership in a particular group or class. Various jurisdictions have enacted statutes to prevent discrimination based on a person’s race, sex, religion, age, previous condition of servitude, physical limitation, national origin, and in some instances sexual orientation.

Breastfeeding mothers is certainly a group that can and has been discriminated against and are often asked to leave public places like restaurants and stores.  This never happened to me during my six years of breastfeeding.  I don’t think I could have kept my cool if it had.

Federal law protects breastfeeding working mothers, and Washington law “protects nursing mothers from discrimination and exempts them from public indecency laws.”  The Seattle breastfeeding law goes a step forward by giving it civil rights protection.  The ordinance will be voted on tomorrow.

Image:  LicenseAttributionShare Alike Some rights reserved by Matteo Bagnoli

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