Two doctors, one of whom was breastfeeding, were escorted out of an exhibit hall at a national obstetrician-gynecologist convention because of a “no-kids” policy.
On Friday, two ob-gyns, Michelle Solone, MD, of Stanford Medical Center and Tami Rowen, MD, of the University of California, San Fransisco, attended a three-day medical conference in Nashville, Tenn., hosted by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) for which tickets range from $50 to $1,000.
Both women brought their babies — Solone her son, 6 months, and Rowen her daughter, 13 months — and paid for an on-site childcare program called Camp ACOG for children ages 6 months to 12-years-old.
Two-and-a-half hours after dropping off her baby, Rowen was asked to return. “She was exhausted and inconsolable, but she stopped crying when I picked her up,” Rowen tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “I figured I would take her to the exhibition hall to wander around the product booths and get some food.”
But Rowen, who was scheduled to lecture the following day, was stopped at the entrance. “A woman said, ‘No babies are allowed,’” she says. Unable to bring her daughter back to daycare, the doctor spent the entire day sitting in her hotel room.
“It made me sad,” says Rowen. “I attend medical conferences a lot, usually with my two children. Sometimes people stare, but I’ve never been asked to leave.”
Solone, however, entered the exhibition hall on Saturday, pushing her son’s stroller past a security guard, who warmly greeted the child. The mother-of-three brought her youngest on the trip, worried he would launch a nursing strike in her absence, and she utilized childcare while teaching a course and hosting a job fair booth for medical students.
But the doctor’s lunch was interrupted by two security members. “They stated that my baby and I needed to leave immediately as kids under 18 were not allowed,” Solone tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “I put him back in the stroller, picked up my plate, which I had not yet finished eating, and was physically bounced from the conference, all the way out through a closed door — as if I were going to sneak back in. They didn't even use a normal exit.”
The doctor found a lecture hall to nurse her son and sent a selfie to colleagues explaining her whereabouts. “They were shocked and asked my permission to post it on social media,” she tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “Then it went viral.”
On Sunday, the non-profit tweeted its policy on children, relenting that babies held by parents could enter the exhibit hall.
Later on, another tweet read, “ACOG has always strongly supported breastfeeding; #ACOG2019 moms can nurse anywhere they’d like. We regret that our policy of no children in the exhibit hall disrupted breastfeeding for some of our attendees. We have made an exception for breastfeeding moms visiting the hall.”
All our #ACOG19 sessions are open to parents with kids except for the industrial exhibits area due to safety concerns. We apologize for inconveniences this causes attendees. To support parents, we continue to provide a Mother’s Lounge for bfing, child care, & kids camp 1/2— ACOG (@acog) May 5, 2019
If a baby is held by mom or dad, they can visit the exhibit hall. We hear your concerns and believe in supporting working parents. We are committed to adjusting exhibit hall rules next year to best accommodate all attendee’s needs. 2/2— ACOG (@acog) May 5, 2019
ACOG has always strongly supported breastfeeding; #ACOG19 moms can nurse anywhere they’d like. We regret that our policy of no children in the exhibit hall disrupted breastfeeding for some of our attendees. We have made an exception for breastfeeding moms visiting the hall.— ACOG (@acog) May 5, 2019
“In other words, if your child is no longer considered a ‘baby’ and is formula-fed, they wouldn’t be allowed inside,” Rowen tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “That’s a slap in the face.”
Solone, while content with the outcome, tells Yahoo Lifestyle, “Breastfeeding clearly sensationalized the issue on social media, but this is about human rights and wellness — about improving work life integration for working parents.”
“We should never force a working parent to choose between spending time with their child or advancing their career at a conference, when it is reasonable to do both simultaneously,” adds Salone. “I wasn’t asking to bring my baby to the operating room; I was asking to bring him to lunch.”
Jennifer Conti, MD, clinical assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Stanford University School of Medicine, who attended the conference, tells Yahoo Lifestyle, “I'm impressed that [ACOG] corrected this so swiftly, but also disappointed that this even had to be an issue. This is our nation's governing organization for women's health and the fact that this is an issue in 2019 is proof that we absolutely need organizations like TimesUp Healthcare.”
A spokesperson from ACOG says exhibit halls have always been closed to children under the age of 18, for safety reasons. “Because there were women who couldn’t use the daycare center or enter the exhibit hall, we changed the policy in one hour,” the spokesperson tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “Next year, we will fine-tune the policy. Any baby is welcome.”
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