HONOLULU (AP) — Hawaii Sen. Maile Shimabukuro knows firsthand how hard it can be to find an appropriate space for breastfeeding. She found herself pumping milk on the bus while commuting to work when she was breastfeeding her son.
For women serving on juries, the challenge can be even greater, because jurors often don’t have access to supplies or an adequate space to pump.
Breastfeeding moms could soon be exempt from jury duty in Hawaii under a bill Shimabukuro co-sponsored and the Hawaii Senate passed on Monday. The bill, which would excuse mothers from jury duty if they are breastfeeding children up to age 2, heads next to Gov. David Ige, who may sign it into law.
“In a confined setting like a jury room or a jury box, it’s a little disconcerting for the mom, as well as for the people around, because not everybody knows how to handle a mom that’s breastfeeding in public,” said state Sen. Roz Baker, who co-introduced the bill. “All the statistics show that you bond, and there are important immunities that pass from mom to baby that you don’t get if you’re not able to breastfeed.”
The National Conference of State Legislatures says 17 states and Puerto Rico excuse breastfeeding mothers from jury duty or allow their service to be postponed.
Fewer than one in three children in Hawaii receive breast milk at the age of twelve months, an age when breast milk is recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the World Health Organization, according to Breastfeeding Hawaii, a nonprofit organization.
If jurors or other women don’t pump breast milk at the appropriate time, their bodies may stop producing milk, Shimabukuro said.
“It’s really a critical thing in terms of the health of both the baby and the mother,” she said.
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