Ariz. bill on public nursing advances - Roxanne
Mar. 21st, 2006
09:30 am - Ariz. bill on public nursing advances
Ariz. bill on public nursing advances
All on Senate panel vote for breast-feeding rights
By Howard Fischer
Capitol Media Services
Tucson, Arizona | Published: 03.21.2006
advertisementPHOENIX — Mothers would not have to leave public places under threat of arrest if they breast-feed their children under legislation approved unanimously Monday by the Senate Judiciary Committee.
The legislation would give women breast-feeding rights that would mean a business owner could not ask someone to leave for that reason.
The proposed law also would create an exemption from state laws that make it a crime for a woman to expose a nipple whenever anyone else is present and a reasonable person would be "offended or alarmed."
The measure, which already has been approved by the House, now goes to the full Senate.
Several cities have adopted ordinances intended to let women breast-feed without being forced to go into a restroom or other private place. But none of those supersedes state indecent-exposure laws.
"Mothers risk prosecution every time they go out in public and nurse their children," said Amy Milliron of Tempe.
She said the measure is not designed to let nursing mothers flout state laws.
"Mothers do not nurse to expose themselves," she said.
"However, if a child is nursing, they may momentarily pop off and then pop back on again to take a breath," Milliron explained. The question of arrest should not be left up to the offended person, she said.
Rep. Jonathan Paton, R-Tucson, acknowledged that the provision letting women nurse wherever they want might be seen as violating the property rights of people who own restaurants, theaters or other businesses. But he said that those rights have to fall by the wayside on this issue.
"I think the right of a mother to nurse their children is a more fundamental right that's as old as the Bible itself," Paton said. "I don't see any reason why it should be limited."
He said similar laws in other states have not created any problems.
Milliron said a law actually would help businesses that face complaints from other patrons about breast-feeding women.
"Businesses will actually now have a tool to be able to deal with those people that may have a question about a mother in their establishment," she said.
"They will be able to say a mother is protected," Milliron continued. "That will give the other person a clue that maybe they need to step aside if they don't want to watch."
Monday's vote came after committee members rejected an effort by Sen. Jack Harper, R-Surprise, to add a provision to the breast-feeding measure making it illegal to have sex with an animal.
Harper said he was alarmed to learn that a Mesa deputy fire chief could not be charged with a felony after sheriff's deputies said he was found in his neighbor's barn having relations with a sheep. He was instead charged with disorderly conduct.
But other legislators were loath to link the two issues in a single bill. Sen. John Huppenthal, R-Chandler, called Harper's effort "a little ghastly."
"We need to stand against acts of perversion," said Harper, who noted that Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio said there needs to be a specific law making this kind of act a felony.