Hundreds of moms across the state of Georgia and around the U.S. have rallied around Nirvana Harley Jennette, a Georgia mom of 4, who began organizing the statewide Georgia Nurse-In after being told by her pastor that nursing her baby during church service was no better than a stripper performing on a pole. Breastfeeding moms, nurslings, and their supporters will be gathering in 5 locations around the state of Georgia on March 5th, 2012 from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm.
Nirvana and Lani Michelle, the mom we know from the Bring Breastfeeding Back to Sesame Street project, have been working diligently (with terrific legal advice from Jake Marcus of BreastfeedingLaw.com) on perfecting proposed legislation to enact new laws with enforcement provisions to protect lactating moms of Georgia for nursing in public as well as pumping in the workplace. Today, Wednesday, February 29, 2012 Nirvana and a couple of moms on her team will be in Atlanta meeting with Fox News for a pre-event interview. While in Atlanta Nirvana will also be meeting with Mary Jackson, President of the Georgia State Breastfeeding Coalition (a member of the United States Breastfeeding Committee), Mr. Villines, a Georgia lawyer, and Mandy Miles Call, a Georgia mom who will be helping introduce Nirvana and her proposed legislation to some representatives and senators of Georgia. Senator Renee Unterman, Senator Jack Hill, Senator Donzella James, Representative Stephanie Benfield, and Representative Don Parsons are on the list of Georgia legislators that Nirvana will approach in hopes that she can find a sponsor for her proposed Georgia legislation.
What is the big deal with this nurse-in? Why are the moms of Georgia asking for legislation changes when the current Georgia law states that “a mother may breast-feed her baby in any location where the mother and baby are otherwise authorized to be?” There are two reasons: first, while you may have a right to breastfeed in public, Georgia law doesn’t specifically exempt breastfeeding from it’s “public indecency” law — and given the predominant cultural Booby Trap that breastfeeding is lewd behavior, that leaves moms wide open for harassment. The other reason is that Georgia’s right to breastfeed in public law has no ENFORCEMENT provision — no punishment for offenders, no recourse for those who have been offended. What if there was no enforcement of laws protecting disabled people from being discriminated against? Wouldn’t you think that disabled persons needed protection with enforcement? What about seat belt laws? Without tickets and fines, no one would wear them. No matter how well written current breastfeeding legislation may be, if the law lacks any enforcement of those rights, then the law doesn’t truly protect lactating women. In my opinion, a law without enforcement is a waste of the paper it is printed on because the bully can be a bully and get away with it. Lack of enforcement is why both pumping in the workplace and nursing in public incidents occur daily and the problem persists throughout our country.
Being a mom is not always easy. Exclusively breastfeeding a child is not always easy. Unfortunately many new mothers learning the ropes of caring for an infant and adjusting to being a new mom fall victim to nursing in public bullies and succumb to societal pressure to wean prematurely, not because it was their choice for their child, but because society made them feel pressured to do so. I think all moms should be applauded for feeding their child as they see fit and not feel embarrassed or ashamed by public scorn. Let’s all stand together united and in support of a breastfeeding moms right to nurse and a child’s right to eat. The normalization of nursing in America is well on its way with the grassroots movement of women standing up and saying enough is enough. When the 86% of moms who want to breastfeed don’t make it out of the gate or have to wean prematurely, moms and babies suffer, and all of us pay a heavy price.
The plan for the Georgia Nurse-In Atlanta location is for moms to gather at the capitol building and hand deliver a copy of the proposed legislation to every state senator and representatives office, making lactating women of Georgia’s requests heard. The moms who are unable to attend the nurse-in on March 5th will be sending out mass e-mails to the legislators inboxes, tweeting to legislators, and posting on the legislators Facebook pages in an attempt to show the Georgia state legislators just how determined and united breastfeeding moms of America are. Finally, Nirvana and her group of moms have a special surprise planned for the legislators as they leave the capitol for lunch.
The Georgia Nurse-In is already making waves, being covered in various news outlets, garnering hundreds of supporters, and continuing to build steam in the last few days leading up to the event. I will be attending the Atlanta, GA nurse-in and reporting on it further so stay tuned!
Take Action for the Georgia Nurse-In
Join the Georgia Nurse-In Facebook Group
Sign the Georgia Change.org Petition
Michelle Hickman is the mother who was harassed and humiliated by Target employees for breastfeeding in the store, and who has garnered national media attention for galvanizing over 7,000 moms to protest peacefully at over 250 stores in over 35 states. We are pleased to welcome Michelle Hickman as the new Director of Activism for Best for Babes. Her role will be to report on discrimination and harassment cases and on the grassroots efforts to fight harassment, humiliation and discrimination against breastfeeding mothers. We are working with her to create a hub for moms and the media to be updated on the latest activity, develop a national advisory committee of experts and leaders, and to support activists by connecting them to their State breastfeeding coalitions, national experts and resources. Michelle Hickman is a powerful voice for moms with a keen interest in breastfeeding law, marketing, and supporting mothers and babies. She can be reached at Michelle@bestforbabes.org . . . please be mindful that she is a mom of four and a volunteer! Please consider making a donation to Best for Babes so we can build this activism arm and end breastfeeding discrimination and harassment, and contact Michelle if you want to help.