SB 674 is intended to normalize breastfeeding and give mothers protection when providing human milk for their infants.
The issue of breastfeeding has been controversial in Michigan. In 2011, a “flash mob” of a dozen breastfeeding moms were interrupted by mall security at the upscale Somerset Mall in Troy. According to Sheknows.com:
A security guard approached local mother Mary Napoli, the event’s organizer, shortly after she sat down to nurse her little boy. The security guard asked her to stop, and when she questioned his reasoning, she was told that the mall doesn’t allow flash mobs. Additionally, the guard also stated that the mall doesn’t even allow nursing in public.
This is in sharp contrast to the mall’s official policy, which states that the mall does indeed allow breastfeeding. They do prohibit flash mobs, demonstrations and protests, but nursing in public is fine, according to Edward Nakfoor, spokesperson for The Somerset Collection.
Michigan already has in place legislation which exempts nursing mothers from public nudity or indecent exposure citations when feeding her child. By some reports, that protection does not apply in a courtroom , however. Also in 2011, Michigan District Court Judge Natalie Hegedus told a woman who nursed her five-month-old son in the courtroom,
“Ma’am, it’s my courtroom, I decide what’s appropriate in here. [C]ome on up, okay? You have to understand that a judge — the laws don’t apply in a courtroom. [T]he judge’s law applies, do you understand that?”
The response to that was, again, a protest by militant nursing mothers who staged a “nurse-in” outside the courthouse.
Legislation such as SB 674, which was pushed through the Senate Judiciary Committee by an unanimous vote, has already passed in 45 states across the nation. The new law will prohibit businesses from asking breastfeeding mothers to leave or publishing a notice or sign that said breastfeeding is not allowed. It will also allow a woman asked to leave because of breastfeeding to bring a civil action against the business, with a presumed damage amount of $200.
During the debate phase, the bill received support from unlikely allies: Michigan Right To Life, and Planned Parenthood. A number of physician organizations also lent their support to the legislation.