Wisconsin’s new breastfeeding law

Governor Doyle just signed a new law that protects mothers and babies that are breastfeeding in public. Breastfeeding in public has always been legal in Wisconsin but in the past mothers didn’t have protection from harassment. Now they do – and protection with a penalty for the person that tells them to stop.  The law says:

Right to breast-feed. A mother may breast-feed her child in any public or private location where the mother and child are otherwise authorized to be. In such a location, no person may prohibit a mother from breast-feeding her child, direct a mother to move to another location to breast-feed her child, direct a mother to cover her child or breast while breast-feeding, or otherwise restrict a mother from breast-feeding.

A person who interferes with that right is subject to a forfeiture not to exceed $200 under the general penalty provision under current law.

I want to thank Anne Altshuler, a local LLL leader and IBCLC that has kept me up-to-date on the bill’s progress. She describes the story of the bill and the people that worked so hard to make it reality:

The real heroes in this story are: the mothers who contacted their State Senator, Fred Risser, when they encountered problems in meeting their babies’ needs to be fed; Senator Risser, who took their concerns seriously and sought to find a remedy; Senator Risser’s aide, Sarah Briganti, who researched the subject and crafted the wording of a proposed bill; Representative Sheldon Wasserman who took up the cause in the State Assembly in the 2007 session; Representative Sandy Pasch, who stepped in to guide the bill through the State Assembly with strengthened language; her legislative aide, Fred Ludwig, who kept the breastfeeding community advised of upcoming hearings and votes; all those State Senators and Representatives who signed on as cosponsors; the many mothers, fathers and children who traveled from all around the state, sometimes repeatedly, to share their stories and testify in support of the bill, including La Leche League mothers and children from Appleton and Neenah, and Rock County; Katie Prown, a midwife with political expertise, who worked tirelessly to rally support, including establishing a yahoo group, “Wisconsin Breastfeeding,” to track and share the bill’s progress; La Leche League leader Laurel Franzcek, who kept others alerted to the bill’s progress and actions that needed to be taken in support, even when her family relocated to India in January; Dr. Anne Eglash, who kept her cool during hostile questioning by opponents of the bill while she gave expert testimony; Dr. Jenny Thomas, who also testified in support of the bill, driving a van load of mothers and babies from Racine to one of the public hearings; lactation consultants like Jenny Johnson who took the time to drive down from Green Bay to give persuasive testimony in support of the bill; Madison nutritionist Doris Franklin who also spoke very persuasively in support of this legislation; Luke Rollins, Director of State Advocacy for the Wisconsin Heart Association, who shared his knowledge of the workings of the legislative process to keep members of the WI Partnership for Physical Activity and Nutrition (of which the Wisconsin Breastfeeding Coalition is a subcommittee) appraised of the bill’s progress; Alison Dodge and Lea Wolf of Happy Bambino who rallied the families in their network to support the bill; Kate Pederson, WIC Breastfeeding Coordinator, with her expert testimony and email information to breastfeeding supporters around the state; and all those who took the time to make phone calls, send emails, and write letters to their state senators and representatives explaining why the bill was needed and urging support for it.

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