Sadly I can’t say it surprised me to read that a breastfeeding mother in Michigan was forced to leave a Target store by the police. After all, on a recent visit to Target to buy a baby-related item, I received a coupon for artificial baby milk with my receipt. That certainly isn’t the mark of a breastfeeding-friendly corporation.
MyFOXDetroit.com reports that on Sunday at the Target store in Harper Woods, Michigan, the mother of a 4-week-old baby was told by security that breastfeeding in the store was illegal. When the mother and her off-duty police officer husband disagreed, the police were called and the mother was so embarrassed that she felt forced to leave the store! Target headquarters issued this statement in response to the incident:
This specific situation escalated to a point where we were concerned for the safety of our guests, so law enforcement was called. We regret the incident in our store and will continue to provide a shopping environment that respects the needs of all guests, including nursing mothers.
Unfortunately this is not the first instance of alleged breastfeeding discrimination by a Target store. Back in 2006 an employee in a Minneapolis, Minnesota Target store told a mother she could not nurse her baby in a fitting room. At that time, Target issued the following statement:
Target has a long-standing practice that supports breastfeeding in our stores. We apologize for any inconvenience the guest experienced and will take this opportunity to reaffirm this commitment with our team members.
For guests in our stores, we support the use of fitting rooms for women who wish to breastfeed their babies, even if others are waiting to use the fitting rooms. In addition, guests who choose to breastfeed discreetly in more public areas of the store are welcome to do so without being made to feel uncomfortable.
Aside from the “disceetly” remark that’s an okay response, except now it’s happened again in another store.
Michigan Breastfeeding Law
Currently the Michigan state law exempts breastfeeding from the public nudity statute. Breastfeeding may also be taken into consideration in child custody cases. This most recent Target incident demonstrates exactly why Michiganders need to support the pending breastfeeding legislation, House Bill 5515. HB 5515 would allow a woman to breastfeed anywhere she may otherwise legally be. The law would amend the Elliot-Larsen Civil Rights Act to state in part:
Sec. 302. Except where permitted by law, a person shall not: (a) Deny the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations of a place of public accommodation or public service to an individual because of religion, race, color, national origin, age, sex, or marital status or to a woman because she is breastfeeding a child.
I have written to the office of the sponsor of the bill to make sure she knows about this latest alleged breastfeeding discrimination in time for the legislative hearing tomorrow, December 2, 2009. Michigan mothers are invited to testify at the hearing.
[Edited to add the good news that after the December 2nd hearing, HB 5515 passed out of committee by a vote of 11-2!]