Child's Right to Nurse Act
||This article needs to be updated. (April 2015)|
The Child's Right to Nurse Act is a proposed legislative act which seeks to protect a child's right to be breastfed in any location where the mother-child pair are otherwise authorized to be. It was first introduced in the West Virginia House of Delegates by Bonnie Brown (D-30th-Kanawha). Delegates Long, Palumbo, Butcher, Ellem, Varner and Doyle co-sponsored the bill. Dr. Foster and several co-sponsors introduced the bill in the Senate on the same day. The title of the bill highlights that this is the first attempt to introduce breastfeeding legislation that focuses on the child rather than the mother.
Supporters of the bill, which passed 93-4 in the House but went without vote in the Senate, hoped that West Virginia would join other states in protecting breastfeeding mothers from discrimination. Breastfeeding in public is not itself illegal.
On Friday, July 29, 2005, Governor Joe Manchin stated that mothers shouldn't be harassed for breastfeeding. He made this statement during an event in the Governor's Reception Room where he issued a proclamation declaring the month of August as Breastfeeding Month in West Virginia.
The group striving for passage of the bill includes Republicans, Democrats, and Independents. Jennifer Bryant, a mother harassed in Charleston, is a Democrat while Cassie Martin, a mother asked to stop breastfeeding in Huntington, is a Republican.
- Legislation protecting breastfeeding mothers was finally passed in 2014.
§16-1-19. Child's right to nurse: Location where permitted; right protected.
(a) Breast feeding is an important, basic act of nurturing that is protected in the interests of maternal and child health. A mother may breast feed a child in any location, public or private, where the mother and child are otherwise authorized to be.
Reason for the legislation
Both residents of and visitors to West Virginia had been harassed for breastfeeding their children in civic centers, pools, and restaurants. Example: Jennifer Bryant was told by a security guard that she needed to move to the restroom during a car show in Charleston to feed her 6 month old in early 2004.
West Virginia presently ranks 49th for the incidence and duration of breastfeeding in the U.S., with mothers citing a lack of support, even active discouragement, as a primary reason for stopping.
Supporters of the bill
Numerous organizations endorsed the bill:
- American Academy of Pediatrics - WV
- American Association of University Women - WV Chapter
- American Civil Liberties Union of WV
- American College of Nurse Midwives - WV Chapter
- Coalition for West Virginia Children
- Kanawha Lactation Association
- La Leche League of Jefferson County
- La Leche League of West Virginia/Virginia
- La Leche League, Charleston Chapter
- Midwives' Alliance of WV
- National Association of Social Workers - WV Chapter
- Prevent Child Abuse West Virginia
- Right From the Start, Regions 1, 4, 5 & 7
- TEAM for West Virginia Children
- West Virginia Association of School Nurses
- WV Citizens Action Group
- West Virginia Community Voices, Inc.
- WV FREE
- WV Healthy Kids and Families Coalition
- West Virginia Hospital Association
- WV Interfaith Center for Public Policy
- West Virginia State Medical Association
- YWCA of Charleston
Opposition to the bill
House of Delegates
- Four members of the House of Delegates, three men and one woman voted against the bill. All were Republicans.
- In contrast to the House, the greatest opposition to the bill came from the Senate's top Democrats.
- Senator Prezioso (D-13th-Marion), Chairman of the Health and Human Resources Committee, held up the legislation until the last hearing of the general session. During that last hearing, Mr. Prezioso introduced amendments that would have limited the protections. The first would have restricted the protections to children under twelve months. This amendment was voted down. The second amendment to this bill would have limited the places where the law applied. This amendment passed.
- The bill cleared the Health and Human Resources Committee and should have been reported on the floor that legislative day following the committee vote. However, Mr. Prezioso chose not to report until only two legislative days remained. Thus, the bill died on the final day of the session as it had not been read on three consecutive days as required by the West Virginia Constitution.