Seattle Makes Breastfeeding a Civil Right

Seattle’s City Council unanimously approved a bill on Monday making it illegal for businesses to ask mothers to stop nursing. The soon-to-be law makes it a civil rights infringement for businesses to tell nursing moms to cover their breasts or move to a secluded place. Individuals who infringe a breastfeeding mom’s civil right may be forced to enroll in sensitivity training.

Washington state, like many others, already has a law giving women the right to breastfeed in public, but Seattle women have filed complaints saying they were told to leave or button up when breastfeeding. The new bill makes interfering with the right to breastfeed an act of discrimination, and officially illegal.

By passing the bill, the council added a mother’s right to breastfeed to a list of other protected civil rights, such as the right to freedom from racial discrimination. The right to breastfeed witll be protected in all places open to the public, including restaurants, public libraries, medical offices, and movie theaters and concert venues. The mayor has promised to sign the bill, making it a law.

Councilman Bruce Harrell sponsored the bill as a way to improve infant health, particularly in minority communities.

“The bottom line is, it’s a health issue for our community,”  Harrell told reporters after the vote. “It’s very clear, the benefits of breastfeeding.”

Harrell heads the Public Safety, Civil Rights and Technology Committee. The bill states that “eliminating societal barriers to breastfeeding” will increase public acceptance. Once that happens, the bill argues, women will be able to breastfeed for longer.