FARGO – A mom kicked out of a Fargo restaurant last month for breast-feeding is working with a North Dakota senator to change state law.
“I don’t see myself as a hero. I just see myself as a mom who wants to feed her baby,” said Macy Hornung at a meeting Saturday, Feb. 24, that brought together breast-feeding advocates and Sen. Tim Mathern, D-Fargo, at the south end public library.
Current state law says a woman may breast-feed her child in any public or private place if she “acts in a discreet and modest manner.”
Mathern said he’s drafted a bill that would eliminate the “discreet and modest” clause, which breast-feeding advocates have long contended is too open to interpretation and would result in situations such as the one Hornung found herself in. But, he said, that was the only way to get enough votes for the law to pass.
Hornung was breast-feeding her then-7-month-old daughter, Ziggy, at the new Chick-fil-A restaurant in January when the owner demanded she cover her breast. She refused because she said her daughter flails around when covered by a blanket.
The owner has since apologized.
“Breasts are for breast-feeding, and we need to give that some attention and help our citizens recognize this is a natural and wholesome process,” Mathern said.
Breast-feeding is recommended by health care professionals because it lowers the risk of diseases such as asthma, obesity and childhood leukemia, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Mathern said it’s one of the reasons he’s been pushing the Legislature to adopt laws supporting breast-feeding moms for the past decade. He said he also has heightened awareness of the issue because his daughter was once kicked out of the Senate gallery for breast-feeding.
North Dakota is one of 49 states allowing moms to breast-feed in any public or private place, but it’s the only state that qualifies that right by requiring modesty, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Idaho is the only state that doesn’t protect the right of mothers to breast-feed in public, though lawmakers there are currently working to change that.
Mathern said the group he met with Saturday included advocates, such as La Leche League, as well as health care providers including Sanford Health. He said the group plans to line up advocates to speak with lawmakers.
"We can like and support and voice our support on social media all day long, but in the end that's not what makes change happen. And us here meeting, us reaching out to our legislators, that's what's going to make this bill pass,” said Erika Lee, a breast-feeding advocate who organized the meeting.