BOISE – Idaho may soon lose its status as the only state without a law protecting women who nurse their babies in public.
Legislation exempting breast-feeding from the state’s indecent exposure and obscenity laws passed the House unanimously on Thursday. That’s a big turnaround from 15 years ago, when pro-breast-feeding legislation was rejected amid concerns from male legislators that women would be prompted to “whip it out and do it anywhere.”
This year’s bill, proposed by freshman Rep. Paul Amador, R-Coeur d’Alene, the father of a 5-month-old boy, passed on a 66-0 vote Thursday with no debate.
Forty-nine states and the District of Columbia have laws on the books specifically allowing women to breast-feed in any place they’re legally allowed to be, and 29 states exempt breast-feeding from their public indecency statutes.
“Unfortunately, Idaho is the one state that currently has no protections for breast-feeding mothers,” Amador told the House. “Personally, I find it disappointing that we’re in 2018 and we still haven’t passed this law in Idaho.”
“I think we can take a proactive stance here through legislation to promote the natural bond and health benefits of breast-feeding for both mother and child,” he said. “I also believe the health and nutritional choices of our families are best left as decisions for our families, not our government.”
Amador’s bill, which has 38 co-sponsors (31 Republicans and seven Democrats), doesn’t establish a right to breast-feed. It just exempts breast-feeding from indecent exposure and obscenity laws.
He called the bill that passed a compromise.
Protection to match the other 49 states is “an opportunity for us to work on down the road, but it’s a heavier lift, I think, for us in Idaho.”
To become law, the bill still needs Senate passage and the governor’s signature.
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