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article imageBreastfeeding mom accused of indecent exposure, files charges

By Leigh Goessl     Dec 16, 2011 in Politics
Breastfeeding in public is one of those topics which often causes controversy. One side of the fence says it’s a natural part of life while the other side perceives breastfeeding as indecent exposure.
A breastfeeding mother in Washington was recently told by security guards to stop feeding her four-month-old baby in the Henry J. Daley government building, in Washington, because it was "indecent", according to ABC News 7.
Simone dos Santos was in the building waiting for a traffic hearing associated with running a red light. The mother, who is also an attorney, says she left the busy waiting room and moved into a quieter hallway to breastfeed her baby.
With no place to sit, or no designated area for breastfeeding, the mother sat down on the floor to start to feed her hungry baby when the two guards told her she couldn't do it, despite the fact she covered her infant son with a jacket.
In a blog post Dos Santos writes in the Washington Post, the attorney said, "In a stern voice, a guard who was monitoring the metal detectors at the building's entrance, told me I could not sit on the floor. I acknowledged her but continued to nurse.
"I planned to get up once he was finished eating. But the guard was adamant. I removed my son, buttoned my shirt, and slowly stood up. But I knew he wasn’t finished eating. So I leaned against the wall and started to nurse again."
That's when the second guard approached Dos Santos and said because the area was "public" she was guilty of "indecent exposure" of her breast. Dos Santos questioned the guard who reportedly said, "Well, this is a government building, and you can't breastfeed in a public corridor of a government building!"
Dos Santos cited, according to the District of Columbia Breastfeeding Coalition which says, "On December 7, 2007 Mayor Adrian M. Fenty signed a new law. This law is called the “Child’s Right to Nurse Human Rights Amendment Act of 2007” (Bill B17-0133). The law makes it legal to breastfeed ANYWHERE a woman has the right to be with her child in DC."
The attorney says she then called her office and asked about the law, and in Washington DC, and 28 other states, breastfeeding is exempt from public indecency laws. Additionally, according to National Conference of State Legislatures, the District of Columbia is one of many states and districts which have a law that "specifically allow women to breastfeed in any public or private location."
ABC 7 cites the D.C. Human Rights Act of 1977 that protects a woman's right to breastfeed her baby in a public place.
Now Dos Santos has filed a complaint with the D.C. Office of Human Rights. She says, “We as nursing mothers have rights."
Aside from the laws which support a nursing mother's right to breastfeed in public and despite the fact the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends infants be breastfed due to it being the best nutrition for babies, many still object to women nursing their women in public. It is not uncommon for breastfeeding moms to be told to use a bathroom to feed their babies.
The ABC News 7 report said, Dos Santos wants to get a message out to the public while her case is pending investigation.
“It's a natural, legally protected process and people need to understand that,” she says.
More about Breastfeeding, Washington dc, breastfeeding in public, Washington, District of columbia
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