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Over Cries Of Immodesty, Breastfeeding Bill Advances

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Legislation affirming the right of mothers to breastfeed in public is moving forward — even over the objections of some squeamish male lawmakers.

The House Business and Labor Committee voted 6-5 in favor of the Breastfeeding Protection Act, sponsored by Rep. Justin Fawson, R-North Ogden.

“I don’t feel like we should ever relegate a mom to a restroom to breastfeed their child,” he said. “That’s a big reason why I’m running the bill. I’m seeking to further normalize breast feeding and allow moms to feed their babies as needed.”

Fawson said Utah and Idaho are the only two states that don’t have a law that specifically authorizes women to breastfeed in any private or public location.

Rep. R. Curt Webb, R-Providence, was one of five male lawmakers who voted against the measure. He said the bill lacked any standard of modesty.  

“But this seems to say, you don’t have to cover up at all," he said. "[I’m] not comfortable with that at all, I’m just not. It’s really in your face.”

Many mothers flocked to the hearing as well, some in support and others who subscribed to Webb’s point of view.

"I think they ought to try to stay modest while breastfeeding; it's very easy to do," said Jackie de Gaston, a mother of 10 children, who opposed the bill. 

"I don't think that you should be asked to go feed in a public restroom," said Elise Jones, mother of a 9-month-old daughter, in disagreement. "Most public restrooms that I've been in are nowhere where I'd want to eat or where I'd want to feed my baby."

Fawson said he hopes his bill prevents a situation in which a mother is asked to leave or relocate from a place of business while breastfeeding. 

Julia joined KUER in 2016 after a year reporting at the NPR member station in Reno, Nev. During her stint, she covered battleground politics, school overcrowding, and any story that would take her to the crystal blue shores of Lake Tahoe. Her work earned her two regional Edward R. Murrow awards. Originally from the mountains of Western North Carolina, Julia graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill in 2008 with a degree in journalism. She’s worked as both a print and radio reporter in several states and several countries — from the 2008 Beijing Olympics to Dakar, Senegal. Her curiosity about the American West led her to take a spontaneous, one-way road trip to the Great Basin, where she intends to continue preaching the gospel of community journalism, public radio and podcasting. In her spare time, you’ll find her hanging with her beagle Bodhi, taking pictures of her food and watching Patrick Swayze movies.
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