There is an important bill that is stuck in committee right now. The bill is named the Breastfeeding Promotion Act of 2007. (The following bullet points are my interpretation of the bill. You may interpret it differently.) The Breastfeeding Promotion Act:
- asks that breastfeeding/lactation be protected by federal law, as an amendment to the civil rights act of 1964.
- will provide employers tax breaks for supporting lactating employees (by providing them pumping rooms, time for pumping, etc.)
- asks for a classification/quality standard for breast pumps (right now there isn’t any — for example: the words “hospital-grade breast pump” are essentially meaningless at this point because there’s no third party entity in place that has defined what “hospital-grade” means)
- asks for a provision to be made so that tax breaks be given to those who need breast pumps and/or services related to breastfeeding (like the use of a lactation consultant)
If you have the time, read the full version of the bill. This bill was first proposed by Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) on July 18, 2003. That’s over FOUR years ago. It has died numerous times now, never even being voted on in the House or Senate because it’s never made it past a committee. It probably never made it past committee because the public has probably not drawn enough attention to it to warrant consideration. It’s been re-incarnated numerous times (by Maloney and a bipartisan group of representatives) and was re-introduced most recently on July 17, 2007. As of this very moment, this bill’s fate is in the hands of these people (there’s a scroll bar underneath the pictures; if you slide it all the way across, you can see what most of the representatives look like). There is a total of 49 people in this H.R. committee, and I count only ten women among them. Perhaps if all the Representatives were contacted and urged to send this bill to the House for a vote, we could get this bill voted on in the Senate as well and then (hopefully) signed into law. Without getting past this committee, though, the bill will die once again and will have to be re-submitted. Again. This is getting tiresome, so, in order to avoid more needless delays, let’s get this show on the road, shall we? Let’s get the Breastfeeding Promotion Act made into law.
OK. The people that need to be contacted are these. They are all congresspeople, in other words, members of the House of Representatives (The “Rep.” in front of their name stands for “Representative” and not “Republican”). They are all members of the House Committee on Education and Labor, which is the committee that will decide whether to let the Breastfeeding Promotion Act move on to the House of Representatives, or be ignored and die. This is how the House Committee on Education and Labor breaks down:
- California = 5 Representatives (Rep. George Miller, Rep. Howard McKeon, Rep. Lynn Woolsey, Rep. Susan Davis, Rep. Linda Sánchez)
- New York = 4 Representatives (Rep. John Kuhl, Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, Rep. Timothy Bishop, Rep. Yvette Clark)
- Michigan = 4 Representatives (Rep. Peter Hoekstra, Rep. Vernon Ehlers, Rep. Timothy Walberg, Rep. Dale Kildee)
- Illinois = 3 Representatives (Rep. Judy Biggert, Rep. Danny Davis, Rep. Phil Hare,)
- Pennsylvania = 3 Representatives (Rep. Todd Platts, Rep. Joe Sestak, Rep. Jason Altmire)
- New Jersey = 3 Representatives (Rep. Donald Payne, Rep. Robert Andrews, Rep. Rush Holt)
- Texas = 2 Representatives (Rep. Kenny Marchant, Rep. Rubén Hinojosa)
- New Hampshire = 1 Representative (Rep. Carol Shea-Porter)
- Connecticut = 1 Representative (Rep. Joe Courtney)
- Kentucky = 1 Representative (Rep. John Yarmuth)
- Hawaii = 1 Representative (Rep. Mazie Hirono)
- Iowa = 1 Representative (Rep. David Loebsack)
- Maryland = 1 Representative (Rep. John Sarbanes)
- Arizona = 1 Representative (Rep. Raúl Grijalva)
- Oregon = 1 Representative (Rep. David Wu)
- Ohio = 1 Representative (Rep. Dennis Kucinich)
- Massachusetts = 1 Representative (Rep. John Tierney)
- Virginia = 1 Representative (Rep. Robert Scott)
- Nevada = 1 Representative (Rep. Dean Heller)
- Tennessee = 1 Representative (Rep. David Davis)
- Utah = 1 Representative (Rep. Rob Bishop)
- North Carolina = 1 Representative (Rep. Virginia Foxx)
- Louisiana = 1 Representative (Rep. Charles Boustany)
- Georgia = 1 Representative (Rep. Tom Price)
- Washington = 1 Representative (Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers)
- Minnesota = 1 Representative (Rep. John Kline)
- South Carolina = 1 Representative (Rep. Addison Wilson)
- Florida = 1 Representative (Rep. Ric Keller)
- Indiana = 1 Representative (Rep. Mark Souder)
- Delaware = 1 Representative (Rep. Michael Castle)
- Wisconsin = 1 Representative (Rep. Thomas Petri)
- Puerto Rico = 1 Resident Commissioner (Luis Fortuño)
It’s important to contact these specific representatives and alert them to the importance of this bill because right now these people are all looking at hundreds, if not thousands, of other bills. It’s hard for them to know which ones to really give their attention to, and oftentimes, even important ones — like the Breastfeeding Promotion Act — get ignored in favor of other ones with a perceived higher importance (meaning, people have written, called, essentially hassled the representatives until the representatives got the message that a particular issue was important enough to warrant their attention). With enough emails, telephone calls, and letters alerting these representatives about the importance of getting this bill, The Breastfeeding Promotion Act, passed, it’s more likely they’ll approve it for vote in the House of Representatives.
Here’s a to-do list to help you focus:
- Find out your representative(s) from the above list (I’ve listed them by state, not by district) and contact him/her (them). Their contact information should be relatively easy to find on their official sites, which I have linked to if you click on their names. The representatives I’ve listed may not be your representative for the zip code in which you live, but that shouldn’t stop you from trying to contact them anyway. Some of these representatives don’t want you contacting them (and discourage you from contacting them) if they’re not representing the specific district you live in. Don’t let this dissuade you if your district isn’t listed. Call those representatives on the phone and let yourself be heard anyway; telephone numbers are almost always listed on representatives’ contact pages. If your state isn’t represented in the above list, contact one of the listed representatives anyway. Just pick one (or two or three) to contact and alert to the importance of this. Remember, it is the people listed above that have the power, right now, to move the Breastfeeding Promotion Act in to the House and get it voted on. It’s never been voted on before; it’s never moved past the committee phase (which it is in right now) since 2003. It never will move forward unless people bring it to these representatives’ attention. One last note: you can still contact your own specific representative and bring this to his/her attention. It will still make a difference, even if your representative is not a member of the House Committee on Education and Labor. Every email, phone call, and letter a member of the House receives that calls attention the importance of getting the Breastfeeding Promotion Act passed into law counts!
- Write an email to the representative you’ve chosen above (or use their online contact form, if applicable, or call them on the telephone) about the importance of getting the Breastfeeding Promotion Act passed and the relevance of it in your personal life. If you don’t know where to start with writing a letter, copy the following sample letter and paste it into the body of your message. Make modifications to it so that it reflects what you want it to say.
- After you send your message to your representative(s), tell everyone you know how they can do the same thing. (Link to this page to make it easy for others to find out more). Too many people don’t know they have the power to help change the law so that it is more supportive for lactating mothers. Often lactivists wonder how they can make a difference. Here’s a golden opportunity!
Sample letter (for email or snail mail):
Dear Rep. [insert full name of your representative]:
I’m writing in regard to a proposed bill, the Breastfeeding Promotion Act, which I think is very important. I am a(n) [breastfeeding mother, pumping mom, working mom who needs to pump, supportive husband of a breastfeeding/lactating mom, employer of a lactating mom, etc.] and I firmly believe that breastfeeding is essential to the health and well-being of babies and toddlers. However, there is no federal law that protects women from being fired for needing to pump while at work, nor offers protection to a breastfeeding mom from being harassed for breastfeeding in public, nor is there any support for employers who wish to help lactating mothers accomplish their breastfeeding goals. The Breastfeeding Promotion act, particularly in light of the lactivism protests you may have seen in the news lately, would be a very timely and appropriate response to these problems. The bill proposes, among other things, tax cuts for employers who provide accommodations for lactating mothers, amending the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 (which is itself an amendment to the Civil Rights Act of 1964) so that it includes lactating women. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 was originally intended to include lactation, but unfortunately, some courts have not recognized the need for pumping or breastfeeding a child to be protected rights. This Breastfeeding Promotion Act would clarify the intent of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act to properly include the state of lactation as well. It would also offer necessary legal protection to mothers from being discriminated against for breastfeeding in public.
I know that the Breastfeeding Promotion Act is in the House Committee on Education and Labor right now, a committee of which you are a member [only write this if this applies to the representative you’re contacting — all of the ones listed in this post are members of the House Committee on Education and Labor], and I implore you to pass the Breastfeeding Promotion Act on to the House of Representatives so that it can be voted on. As a(n) [breastfeeding mother, pumping mom, working mom, supportive husband, employer, etc.], as a resident of [insert your state here] and as a citizen of the United States of America, I thank you in advance for your consideration of this bill.
Edited to add: For more information, please see this page on how to lobby your elected officials.
Edited further: My letter not easy enough? Go to MomsRising.org and fill out their online form, which emails your elected officials directly. So easy anyone can do it… It would only take five minutes out of your day to read, edit the message, and email your representative, but it could make all the difference in the world for lactating moms and their babies. Do it for our future. Please. The moms and babies of the future thank you.