There is overwhelming evidence that the best food choice for infants is their mother's milk. The World Health Organization and the Center for Disease Control have been taking a multi-disciplinary approach to increasing breastfeeding rates for several decades on a global and national scale. These include promotion, education and protection. In North Dakota, we have the infrastructure in place to make progress in our breastfeeding goals, but we are lacking in protections for breastfeeding moms. That is what House Bill 1330 addressed.
I walked into the committee room back in January, with the expectation that the antiquated language removal requested, as well as the penalty for those who choose to discriminate against nursing mothers was a formality. I was dismayed to listen to a committee comprised almost entirely of men comment on concerns about the decency of breastfeeding.
One representative even conjured a scenario in which a mother uses the protections in the law to breastfeed in public with “ill intent.” This hypothetical scenario weighs more heavily on their minds that the well-being of infants every day in North Dakota.
To be blunt, the narrative we are being given isn't about the inalienable right of property owners. It is about prioritizing the rights of adults who may experience momentary discomfort, over the rights of infants to be fed, and the rights of women to be able to participate freely in society in all spaces she is otherwise allowed, without being held responsible for other people’s perception of modesty or discretion, as well as to anticipate that the law will enforce those protections via fines or penalties to those who harass her.
We must codify the values of North Dakota to protect the population with the most need of protection, who are sacrificing their needs for another's comfort. These are our babies.
Willow Hall, Bismarck