Do you practice breastfeeding in public? If so, then you advocate public indecency. May God have mercy on your soul.
A mall store in my home state recently apologized to a customer after an employee told her to stop breastfeeding in public and go to a restroom. The child in question was eighteen months old, old enough for a bottle or solid food. Who breastfeeds a child after six or twelve months at the most? I argued on social media that the employee was right to ask this woman to leave and the store wrong to apologize. However, this was before I knew the law.
I was dismayed to discover that my home state had legalized public breastfeeding ten years ago. Women who did so couldn’t be charged with the crimes of public indecency or nudity, obscene, or sexual conduct. Then I learned that the law had restrictions. If the child was older than twelve months, then the woman would be charged with indecent exposure; first and second offenses are misdemeanors ($500 fine). The customer broke the law! I thought. I rejoiced too soon. Online information about the code was out of date, since all age restrictions were later removed. So the customer was right. Not only that, both the 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act (amended under the 2010 Affordable Care Act) and the state code say that an employer must provide a place – other than a toilet stall – for an employee to breastfeed her child at work. Therefore, unless this store had a clean private area in its restroom, the employee’s suggesting a restroom to this breastfeeding customer was legally reprehensible. Did this employee know that she was breaking state laws? I doubt it. Her employers should have trained her to know the law so that they could avoid a potential lawsuit. However, few stores teach their employees both state and federal laws. This workplace travesty must be rectified.
In the U.S., public breastfeeding is legal in every state except Idaho. Not one law has a child age restriction. More than half of these states also “exempt breastfeeding from public indecency laws” (NCSL). However, I believe that public breastfeeding should be illegal in every state, even for a newborn. The woman should cover herself, find a private place to breastfeed, or use a bottle. Why? Breastfeeding without a cover is public exposure of a private body part, which is the legal definition of public indecency. The use of that body part is irrelevant.
Many breastfeeding moms argue that what they’re doing is natural. Of course it is, but so are urination and copulation! In my home state, both acts are illegal if committed in a public place. Even public nudity, which includes exposure of a breast if the person isn’t breastfeeding, is illegal. So why is only breastfeeding exempt from public indecency laws? I don’t want to see anyone’s breasts in public, just like I don’t want to see anyone urinating or having sex in public. Whether the person is breastfeeding or singing at the Superbowl half-time show is irrelevant. The act is the same: public indecency. Arguments against Victoria’s Secret ads in public places don’t sway me either. Such public exposure of private body parts is just as morally reprehensible, but we shouldn’t make public breastfeeding legal as a result.
I’m not alone. According to a 2004 Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics survey, only 43% of more than 3700 respondents thought that women should breastfeed in public (MSN). Readers also complained about the cover of a 2006 issue of Babytalk magazine, which showed a baby nursing a bare breast (MSN). One editor replied, “There’s a huge puritanical streak in Americans” (MSN). I thank God for this “streak.” It proves that some citizens still believe in public decency.
2006 is a very recent change to my home state’s laws on public breastfeeding. When did other states change theirs, and why? I think that the media manipulated people to make them think, “Isn’t that beautiful? Why is it illegal?” Breastfeeding is beautiful, in private, and private is where it should stay. If I have a child, I won’t breastfeed that child in public, regardless of state laws, because I consider it public indecency. I won’t insist on my rights either. I’ll save civil disobedience for the gospel.
According to Wikipedia, public breastfeeding is a globally accepted practice, both in first-world nations like the UK and in third-world ones like Zimbabwe. However, public nudity is also legal in some nations. Should we pass similar laws here? No! Just because other countries lower the standard in public morality doesn’t mean the U.S. should lower it too. The “Christian” West once brought Christianity to third-world and developing nations. Civilization, including clothing, was a by-product. I once heard the story of a female missionary to Africa in the 1950s who preached marital submission to female converts. The Holy Spirit convicted them because they went bare-breasted in public instead of obeying their husbands, who kept asking them to cover up. Should we reduce the gospel of Jesus Christ to a shirt? No. But after we’re saved, the Spirit convicts us of immorality, nudity included. Islam is a false religion that worships a false god. I still applaud the laws of nations like Saudi Arabia, which penalizes public exposure of the breast, even for breastfeeding. When nations that obey the spirit of the law need the gospel themselves, then the demoralized West is in serious trouble.
Now that public breastfeeding is enshrined in the laws of 49 states, will public indecency become legal too? The idea sounds preposterous, but signs show that the U.S. is hurtling down a slippery slope at breakneck speed. In the name of gender equality, some women want to go topless in public (Atlantic). Thirty-three states let women do this if men can do so too (GoTopless.org). My home state is one of three that bans exposed female chests in public. Topless laws are the logical result of legalizing public breastfeeding, which I believe is step 1 in removing all public indecency laws. We’re being cooked like frogs! So what’s next? Will all forms of public indecency become the law of the land?