Breastfeeding moms should be accommodated

Freedom New Mexico

A teacher who routinely pumped breast milk during work has lost her job, leading the American Civil Liberties Union to file a notice of claim against the Rocky Mountain Academy of Evergreen in Colorado.

ACLU lawyers claim the public charter school declined to renew the contract of teacher Heather Burgbacher because she maintained a breast-pumping schedule. Lynn Setzer, a spokeswoman for Jefferson County schools, said Burgbacher’s position was altered and she was no longer a good fit.

We have no idea which story is true, so we’ll leave it to the courts to render judgment. Nevertheless, it is always great to see the ACLU stand up for mothers and babies.

Regardless of the outcome, this case is the latest reminder of an absurd reality. In a culture that has become hyper-sensitive to the feelings of those who have suffered prejudice and other forms of injustice — a society that tries to respect equal opportunity for women and minorities — mothers who nurse babies are too often treated as a pariah. Every few months another breastfeeding controversy makes headlines, involving a mother ejected from public space, or a place of public accommodation, for exposing a breast. The mother is treated with the respect of a flasher for simply doing what is best for the physical and mental health of an infant.

For those who did not get the memo, it is unlawful to harass a mother for breastfeeding a child. New Mexico is among 45 states with a law that specifically allows women to breastfeed in any public or private location.

As of 2007, New Mexico law requires employers to provide a clean, private place, not a bathroom, for employees who are breastfeeding to pump. Also requires that the employee be given breaks to express milk, but does not require that she be paid for this time.

Federal law require employers to provide “reasonable break time for an employee to express breast milk for her nursing child for one year after the child’s birth each time such employee has need to express the milk.”

There is simply no legal room for anyone to infringe on a woman who is feeding a baby or expressing milk in New Mexico. It is difficult to believe we need laws to protect women who engage in an activity so crucial to civilization. A society cannot grow and prosper if employers don’t protect the smallest among us, who will comprise tomorrow’s workforce. Besides, the needs of children motivate responsible parents to work hard.

Most laws that regulate employers and places of public accommodation go too far. But modern breastfeeding protections are essential to protecting the needs of babies. Though they cannot speak for themselves or defend their best interests, babies are the most valuable members of the human race. Laws that protect their ability to eat what God intended must be known and respected at all times, in all places.