Monday, April 17, 2006

Letter From My State Representative

Here's a response I received to a letter to my state representative, Jeff Merkley.

Dear Ms. Musser,

You are absolutely correct that Oregon law states, "A woman may breast-feed her child in a public place" (ORS 109.001). What is not as clear is what constitutes a public place. A Fred Meyers is private property but it could be argued that they have created a public place by inviting the public to "congregate" there.

The courts would, in all likelihood, deem that a woman has the right to nurse at a Fred Meyers, although this has never been tested in court. Our legislative attorneys believe that the courts would also judge that Fred Meyers has the right to insist on discretion.

Since this ORS is not a criminal statute, only a private action could get this question into court. You would have to sue for the right to nurse without "covering up."

I hope this answers your question.

Claire Griffin
Legislative Aide to
Rep. Jeff Merkley
House Democratic Leader

6 comments:

knittinmom said...

Okay, I find that a bit disturbing. Time to lobby for a law change, methinks!

Iris said...

I was once nursing our infant son while sitting in the hottub of the public pool in Fernie, B.C. There is a shallow area where there is a ramp with handle bars for slowly immersing into the pool so I was only sitting up to less than my waistline in the water.
I was approached by one of the staff members and asked to get out of the pool to nurse. They apologized but mentioned that it was part of the health code and then offered to get bring me a chair over for me to sit on where I was.
I was actually aware of the health code but had forgotten about it and was so used to nursing any and everywhere that I just instinctively started nursing right where I was.
They were so polite about asking me that I just got up, declined the chair, and sat at the edge of the pool to breastfeed in my swimsuit, a tankini I think.
There are so many other worse bodily fluids that could potentially contaminate a pool, it's ridiculous that breast milk is the one that is outright unacceptable. And the chlorine content is enough to destroy any of them, believe me!
I had heard one time on the Canadian Broadcast Company radio station about a group of women who protested the health code by having a "Nurse-In" at a hot springs, the kind that is a public/private developed and maintained one with a concrete pool, somewhere in British Columbia. How cool is that?
How about organizing a Nurse-In at Fred Meyer or some other public location?

Chris said...

Hi, Iris--I am hoping a letter campaign will convince Fred Meyer to change its policy, but if it does not, a nurse-in is in my plans!

Victoria Nolten said...

so sorry that you are going through this. There is a thread at Mothering.com about this if you want to join us http://www.mothering.com/discussions/showthread.php?t=439283

check out http://egov.oregon.gov/DHS/ph/bf/docs/bf-walletcards.pdf and call and complain to the state of Oregon.

Also, do you need contacts in the Lactation community to get in touch with? Let me know how to help you.

Victoria

Anonymous said...

I am a member of Nursing Mothers Counsel of Oregon, so I spend a lot of time in the "breastfeeding world" and if I am not mistaken, the law states that breastfeeding is allowed anywhere mother and baby are allowed to be. Unless they were going to kick you out even if you didn't have your baby they are BREAKING THE LAW. I am planning on writing this "lawmaker" back with that little factoid and suggest others do the same.

Anonymous said...

Claire Griffin appears to be quite racist from her posts on this forum, http://www.alipac.us/ftopicp-623520.html. I'm still trying to get the distaste of her signature line out of my head, "PRESS 1 FOR ENGLISH. PRESS 2 FOR DEPORTATION." I'm not so surprised she's against breast-feeders. She seems to be against everyone that's not white, rich, and in line with her point of view.