Does Breastfeeding in Public Qualify as Indecent Exposure?
While society continues to debate over the social acceptability of public breastfeeding, California law has held a firm stance on the matter for nearly two decades. California Civil Code, Section 43.3 was established in 1997 and grants mothers the right to breastfeed her child in any private or public place in which she and the child are authorized to be. The National Conference on State Legislatures reports that forty-five states, the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands have laws that specifically allow women to breastfeed in any public or private location.
Since 1997, legislation regarding breastfeeding rights continues to protect and support public breastfeeding. California law now requires airports and employers to support a mother’s breastfeeding rights by providing sanitary locations and other necessary accommodations. Additionally, in 2015, an education law was implemented that requires certain California schools to accommodate for pupils with breastfeeding needs.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, health professionals and public health officials widely promote breastfeeding to promote the health of infants. It is public knowledge that both mothers and children benefit from breastfeeding. Breast milk is known to contain powerful antibodies that protect infants from various forms of bacteria and viruses. What’s more, the medical community recognizes the fact that breastfed children have fewer ear, respiratory and urinary tract infections and less diarrhea than their bottle-fed counterparts.
Those infants who are exclusively breastfed tend to have fewer visits to the doctor, and need fewer prescriptions and hospitalizations which result in lower total medical care cost compared to non-breastfeeding infants. Breastfeeding is also beneficial for the mother for it involves a faster return to pre-pregnancy weight and a lower risk of breast cancer and osteoporosis.
The National Conference on State Legislatures reports that forty-five states, the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands have laws that specifically allow women to breastfeed in any public or private location. For instance, in the state of California breastfeeding in public is covered under Section 43.3 of the Civil Code where it states that a mother may breastfeed her child in any location, public or private, except the private home or residence of another, where the mother and the child are otherwise authorized to be present.
In simple terms, in California a woman is legally allowed to breastfeed in any public or private location where she is legally allowed to be. This means that a woman is allowed to breastfeed her baby in a restaurant, on an airplane, at the grocery store or at any other public place where her and her infant are lawfully allowed. Woman no longer have to run to the restroom to feed their baby out of fear of being arrested for indecent exposure. Besides, if others are unwilling to eat their meal in a public restroom because of its insanitary conditions, infants especially shouldn’t be forced to have their meal there.
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