Why are Women Being Harassed for Breast-feeding in NC Courts?
Illustration courtesy of Ermak Oksana/Shutterstock
How ironic is this news? A woman who was breast-feeding her daughter at the Mecklenburg County Courthouse in Charlotte on Sept. 30 says she was harassed and shamed by law enforcement officials for breast-feeding in public. Here we have a mother who is harassed in court for breast-feeding, when breast-feeding in public spaces in North Carolina is protected by law. You can read the law here.
The woman, who says she was attending a hearing at the courthouse as a legal observer, has opened an online petition to demand that the Mecklenburg County Sheriff's Office publicly acknowledge that this incident happened and commit to training their officers on breastfeeding laws. She says she had brought her daughter along to court and “was quietly settling down in the courtroom to nurse her to sleep before the judge arrived, when the deputy approached me. With a disparaging glare he pronounced with anger, ‘Miss! You can't do THAT in here!’”
Although she informed the deputy that in North Carolina a woman's right to breast-feed in public is protected by the law, she says he continued to berate her until he grew so frustrated that he went to find his sergeant. “When the sergeant arrived, flanked by other deputies, he told me to exit the courtroom immediately,” she says. “I was shaking and terrified of being arrested with my daughter in tow, but I stood my ground.”
She says she was allowed to stay in the courtroom, but is “horrified that this same situation could play out again with similar or worse results for other mothers attending court proceedings in Charlotte Mecklenburg.”
What a brave mother she was, and I thank her for speaking up so that other mothers will not have to face similar prejudice. This is not the first time a woman has been harassed for breast-feeding in court. In April, a North Carolina judge booted a woman from court for breast-feeding her infant son during a custody hearing.
Anyone who has breast-fed a child in public knows that it’s not the easiest thing to do as it’s not always easy to relax when people are giving you sideways glances. If you can’t relax, your milk does not flow, or “let down,” as it should. I breast-fed my infants outdoors at baseball games and all sorts of places, and I even asked my priest if it would be OK to breast-feed my son during his Baptism ceremony as I didn’t want him screaming if he got hungry. The answer from my priest was a simple, “yes.”
Think about it. People need to get over thinking of breasts simply as sexual objects. Advertising has used cleavage to sell so many products, from beer to Viagra, but there’s a reason breasts fill with milk. They are first and foremost providing food for babies, and feeding babies in public should be something that is natural and championed by all. Let’s make North Carolina a place where moms can relax and breast-feed everywhere in public.