A breastfeeding mom faces a $500 contempt charge for bringing her baby to jury duty, claiming breastfeeding is the only way her child will eat.
Breastfeeding has always been a hot topic here at Patrick’s Place. In the past, I’ve pointed to instances where moms who wished to breastfeed their babies in public seemed to refuse any effort at discretion, claiming everyone else should just “get over it”. In such cases, angry moms (and an occasional angry dad) used the tired Strawman argument tactic, claiming that I was really suggesting that moms ought to take their children to “filthy bathrooms” or “let the babies go hungry”, neither of which I ever suggested.
My point has always been an issue of common sense. We can all get along if we really try.
That brings me to today’s talker: A judge charged a Missouri mother with contempt of court when she reported to jury duty with her seven-month-old, who she says she breastfeeds.
Court records, according to KCTV-TV in Kansas City, Missouri, show that this mom received several postponements after notifying the court that she was a breastfeeding mom. When summoned to serve as a juror in August, she was unsuccessful in getting another postponement, and feeling she had no other viable option, she brought her baby to court with her, hoping the judge would excuse her.
That didn’t happen.
In fact, the judge says that while the court system does everything it can to help citizens with hardships, Missouri does not have an exemption for breastfeeding moms. Neighboring Kansas does.
Certainly, this stay-at-home mom could have found a caregiver to take care of her son while she served. But there’s just one problem: the mom says her baby will not take a bottle. The mom says she’s willing to serve on a jury, but that the timing just isn’t right.
Common sense would seem to have failed here. Does a judge really need a specific law granting an exemption for breastfeeding moms if he can grant an exemption for people who’d face “an undue or extreme physical or financial hardship?”
Doesn’t the prospect of not being able to eat represent an “undue or extreme physical hardship” for the child? If I couldn’t eat, believe me, that’d be something I’d call a hardship.
Couldn’t a bit of common sense prevented this from having to turn into a contempt of court charge? If the judge’s hands are so tied that he can’t make that kind of determination in excusing a mother whose sole apparent option is to breastfeed, something’s seriously wrong in Missouri. And for that matter, anywhere else that jury duty takes a front seat to feeding a child.
The mom in question is scheduled to face a judge on Thursday, and will find out whether she will face a fine of up to $500 or, even worse, jail time. But support groups are already trying to raise enough money to pay whatever fine is imposed.
The right thing for the court to do is to drop the charge. The right thing for Missouri lawmakers is fix this problem at once.
What would you do if you were the breastfeeding mom? Would you have shown up with your child? Do you think she should face a fine?