Breastfeeding parents across America, rejoice: Nursing in public is now legal in all 50 states! Of course, you may be asking, “What took so long?” — and for good reason. After all, Australia and the U.K. already had national breastfeeding laws on the books, and many other countries simply accept the act without the need for specific legislation. But since breastfeeding is something that is (and has been) governed at the state level, U.S. breastfeeders had no choice but to sit back and wait for state legislators to catch up to the times.
As was the case with Idaho and Utah.
You see, when 2018 began, Idaho and Utah were the only two states that did not legally protect breastfeeding parents. In both locales, people could be charged with public indecency and/or issued citations and fines. However, in February, Utah passed legislation — albeit narrowly — to protect the right to breastfeed, and in March, Idaho followed suit.
The latter went into effect earlier this month.
And while this is huge, it is important to note that not all states offer the same level of protection. The Utah bill, for example, includes language which requires people to cover their breast while feeding; meanwhile, New York doesn’t just protect the act — bare breast and all — but will also require breastfeeding rooms in all state buildings open to the public beginning in 2019.
Part of the reason it took so long to pass such laws is likely the fact that most state legislators are non-breastfeeding men. In fact, in 2018, only a quarter of all U.S. state legislators identify as women. Still, things are changing thanks to public support as well as politicians such as Sen. Tammy Duckworth, who became the first sitting senator to give birth while in office.
So, while this undoubtedly a victory for parents across the country, remember: People breastfeed in order to feed their children. Nothing more. Nothing less. And parents’ right to feed their babies how and where they please should never be up for debate.