What Breastfeeding Moms Should Know About Jury Duty

Breastfeeding is a hot-button issue (just ask any mother who has been on the receiving end of uncomfortable stares) — but a crime? That’s a new one.

Laura Trickle, a mom from Lee's Summit, Missouri, has been found in contempt of court and faces a possible $500 fine — even arrest — for bringing her son, whom she’s nursing, along when she had to report for jury duty last month. On Thursday, she’ll plead her case to Judge Marco Roland at the Jackson County Courthouse.

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Yahoo Shine could not reach Trickle for comment, however, according to a story published Friday in the Kansas City Star, the stay-at-home mother had postponed her first notice to serve jury duty in January because she was pregnant. In August, six months after giving birth to her son, Trickle received another summons but informed the court that she couldn't serve because she was breastfeeding. Shortly after, Trickle received a letter asking her arrange for childcare and report to jury duty.

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On Sept. 3, Trickle showed up at the courthouse with her son and says she was given two options: She could use the break room to pump milk and feed it to her son later, or bring a friend to watch her son during proceedings, and nurse in a private room during breaks. But “Axel doesn’t take a bottle,” Trickle told the Kansas City Star, and she doesn’t have childcare options.

Judge Roland said via a statement to Yahoo Shine: "As a judge in Missouri, I am bound to follow Missouri law in deciding who can be excused from jury duty. The law in Missouri does not make a provision for a juror to be automatically excused from jury service if she is breastfeeding. The law states that jurors are to be given only one postponement for six months. The law states that a subsequent request to postpone jury service may be approved by a judicial officer only in the event of an extreme emergency such as a death in the family. As much as we all value mothers who choose to breastfeed their children, the Missouri Legislature has chosen not to allow an exemption under these circumstances. As a judge, I am obligated to follow the law." 

According to the Kansas City Star, Trickle is the second breastfeeding Jackson County woman to face possible penalties for not serving jury duty,  and Michelle Hickman, director of activism at Best for Babes, a pro-breastfeeding organization says such citations are rare.“Typically, courts have some sort of exemption for nursing women and if it doesn’t, it usually excuses women who are the sole caretakers for children less than 12 months old, especially those with no childcare," she tells Yahoo Shine.

Hickman is familiar with laws around breastfeeding. Back in 2011, the mother of four was sitting on the floor of a Houston Target nursing her infant under a cover, when she says two employees told her to leave, despite Texas law that allows women to nurse anywhere in public. As a result of the incident, Hickman organized a national nurse-in at Target stores with almost 7,000 women participating, and now helps women who find themselves in similar situations get counseling and legal advice.

And there have been plenty of examples this past year. In July, an unidentified woman on an American Airlines flight filed a complaint with the company after a flight attendant gave her a “displeased look” and asked her to cover up “because there were kids on this flight” while she was breastfeeding her son. The company responded with a statement in which it asked that nursing be done with discretion and a sense of modesty. That same month, while having lunch at the Metropolis Country Club in White Plains, New York, Roseline Remans, the wife of a Belgian diplomat, claimed she was asked to nurse in the bathroom after attempting to do so at the club’s restaurant. And in August, Lucy Eades, a mother from Burleson, Texas, was breastfeeding her 16-day-old infant at the Burleson Recreation Center while waiting for her older daughter to finish dance class. Despite state law that allowed her to nurse in public, an employee approached Eades and asked her to “cover up or leave.”

For nursing mothers who anticipate having to serve jury duty, Hickman suggests learning about local laws by visiting Breastfeeding Law, a website that offers legal information and resources for nursing mothers. Until women know their rights,

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