BOISE — Idaho may soon join the rest of the United States in allowing mothers to breastfeed in public.
On Monday, Rep. Paul Amador, R-Couer d’Alene, said it is time for Idaho to support breastfeeding moms. The House Judiciary, Rules and Administration Committee voted unanimously to introduce Amador’s bill, which would exempt breastfeeding mothers from the section of law outlining public indecency and nudity.
“Personally, I find it disappointing that we as a state have not taken a more proactive stance through legislation to promote the natural bond and health benefits of breast feeding for both mother and child,” Amador said. “I also believe that health and nutritional choices for families are best left as decisions for families, not our government.”
Amador is the not the first Coeur d’Alene representative to introduce legislation that would allow mothers to breastfeed in public. In 2003, Rep. Bonnie Douglas, D-Coeur d’Alene, introduced a similar bill that said a mother had the right to breastfeed in public “irrespective of whether the nipple is exposed during or incidental to breastfeeding.” The bill, H235, died in committee.
Idaho is the only state that does not provide protections for mothers breastfeeding in public, though moms in Idaho are among the most frequent breastfeeders. According to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 2016 report, 92.9 percent of Idaho moms have breastfed. Only 12 states had higher percentages. Yet the only legal protection for breastfeeding mothers in Idaho is their exemption from jury duty.
Amador said his bill would help support a practice that is nutritious for infants and creates bonds between mother and child.
“Any law that stands in the way of promoting the healthy development of our children is a law that needs to be changed,” Amador said. “I hope that you can join me today in supporting mothers, supporting children and supporting families by introducing this legislation.”
Nina Rydalch covers the 2018 Idaho Legislature for the University of Idaho McClure Center for Public Policy Research.