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Christine Cordova
Associate Social Editor

Officer Threatens to Arrest Mom for Breastfeeding in Public

Just when you thought the law was on your side…
PUBLISHED ON 09/27/2016

Feeding baby is a mother’s job. How and where she chooses to do her job is not open to public opinion—or uninformed law enforcement. One mom is speaking out after a police officer attempted to deny her right to breastfeed in public.

While grocery shopping in her hometown of Columbus, Georgia, with her sister and two children, Savannah Shukla began to nurse her one-month-old son, Kumar. As she was checking out, Shukla was approached by a Sheriff’s Deputy who encouraged her to cover up, suggesting other shoppers might find her breastfeeding in public offensive.

Shukla recounted the scenario on Facebook.

“I repeated the law back to him stating that Georgia state law says I can breastfeed however most comfortable wherever I want as long as I'm authorized to be there,” Shukla writes.

The officer, who was later identified as Deputy Zipata, suggested Shukla was misinterpreting the law.

"You just think you know what the law says and if your nipple becomes exposed, I really don't want to have to arrest you or you be arrested for being offensive. This isn't like the First Amendment where you can say something offensive,” Shukla writes.

Another mom witnessed the conversation between Deputy Zipata and Shukla, posting her account on Facebook as well.

Muscogee County’s Sheriff Darr acknowledged the situation between Shulka and Deputy Zipata on his personal Facebook.

“My wife and I have four children, each of whom were breastfed, and two of my daughters now have small children of their own,” Sheriff Darr says. “Therefore, I fully understand and appreciate the right of a woman to feed her child wherever she is most comfortable. It is also the law in the state of Georgia.”

After meeting with Shukla and addressing the situation, Darr posted another Facebook status.

“My children were all breastfed and I would never condone a law enforcement officer telling my wife that she should stop feeding our child or face arrest,” Darr writes. “We have sent out a reminder to all of our deputies, that in accordance with Georgia law, a woman has a legal right to breastfeed wherever she needs to, without having to cover up. Additional training shall follow.”

In the US, 48 states have laws in place to protect a mother’s right to breastfeed in public. According to Georgia state law, “A mother may breastfeed her baby in any location where the mother and baby are otherwise authorized to be.”

Although Georgia’s law allows for moms to breastfeeding anywhere, anytime, that’s not the case for all states. Most state laws allows public breastfeeding as long as it doesn’t constitute indecent exposure or criminal behavior.

How far has your state gone to protect your rights?

Alabama

A mother may breastfeed her child in any location, public or private, where the mother is otherwise authorized to be present.

Alaska

A woman breastfeeding a child in a public or private location where the woman and child are otherwise authorized to be cannot be considered “lewd conduct,” “lewd touching,” “immoral conduct,” “indecent conduct” or any similar term.

Arizona

A mother is entitled to breastfeed in any area of a public place or a place of public accommodation where the mother is otherwise lawfully present. Breastfeeding is exempt from Arizona’s indecent exposure laws.

Arkansas

Women are exempt from the indecent exposure violation when breastfeeding in a private or public space, while in the presence of others.

California

A mother may breastfeed her child in any private or public space, with the exception of the home or residence of another person.

Colorado

A mother may breastfeed in any place where she has the right to be.

Connecticut

State law prohibits any one person from restricting or limiting the right of a mother to breastfeed her child.

Delaware

Moms are entitled to breastfeed their baby in any place where they are permitted to be.

District of Columbia

A woman has the right to breastfeeding in any location, public or private, where she has the right to be with her child. DC law goes a step further to protect nursing moms from violating indecent exposure laws, stating that a woman still has the right to breastfeed in public, even if the portion of her breast below the top of the areola is exposed.

Florida

Florida was the first state to enact breastfeeding laws. The state permits women to nurse their child in any area, private or public, that she has the right to be in regardless of the exposure of one’s breasts.

Georgia

State law allows women to breastfeeding in any location that she has a right to be in.

Hawaii

In Hawaii, it is illegal to deny a women the right to enjoy the goods and/or services provided by a public establishment because she is breastfeeding in that location.

Idaho

Idaho is one of the only US states that does not have a law in place to protect women breastfeeding in public. Although nursing moms are exempt from jury duty.

Illinois

A mother has the right to breastfeed her child in any location, private or public, that she is otherwise authorized to be. The one caveat is places of worship, where the law states a woman must adhere to the religious norms of the establishment.

Indiana

A woman has the right to breastfeed anywhere she is authorized to be.

Iowa

Similar to other states, Iowa allows women to breastfeed in any location she is authorized to be. However, the law clearly states that women have the right to breastfeed their own child (aka wet nursing is not permitted).

Kansas

A mother can breastfeed anywhere she has the right to be.

Kentucky

Women have the right to breastfeed or pump in any location where they have the right to be and it cannot be considered indecent exposure. It is also illegal for another person to interfere with a woman’s right to feed her child.

Louisiana

A woman has the right to breastfeed in any location she is authorized to be. If a woman is denied service for breastfeeding in the establishment or is asked to breastfeeding somewhere else, such acts are considered to be discriminatory.

Maine

Maine protects a woman’s right to breastfeed in any location where she is otherwise authorized to be. In accordance with AAP suggestions, the court keeps breastfeeding in mind when determining custody for children under the age of one.

Maryland

A woman has the right to breastfeed in any place that she and her baby have the right to be. It is illegal to restrict or limit a mother’s right to breastfeed her child. Supplies associated with breastfeeding and pumping, such as nipple shields or breast pumps, are exempt from Maryland state sales tax.

Massachusetts

Breastfeeding in public is allowed, so long as a mother and child are otherwise authorized to be in the location. Restricting a woman’s right to breastfeed is illegal and breastfeeding in public is exempt from indecent exposure violations.

Michigan

Michigan state law protects women breastfeeding in public from indecent exposure violations. The state also considers breastfeeding when determining family time in civil cases in court.

Minesota

Women have the right to breastfeed in any location where they and their children have the right to be. Breastfeeding in public is also exempt from indecent exposure laws.

Mississippi

Mississippi’s law is a little tricky. It states that no municipality or county has the right to restrict a woman’s right to breastfeed in public unless the state gives them permission to establish such a law.

Missouri

A mother can breastfeed or pump in any location that she otherwise has authority to be and the act of nursing/pumping should not be considered indecent exposure or sexual conduct.

Montana

Women can breastfeed in any location where she and her child are otherwise authorized to be. Breastfeeding in public cannot be considered indecent exposure, sexual conduct or a nuisance.

Nebraska

Like Idaho, a nursing mother may be excused from jury duty. The state does not protect a woman’s right to breastfeed in public.

Nevada

Breastfeeding in public is permitted in all locations, private or public, where a mother and child are otherwise authorized to be. It is not considered indecent exposure for a woman to nurse her child in public, even if her breast is exposed.

New Hampshire

Breastfeeding in public is not considered indecent exposure and the law suggests any attempt to limit a mother’s right to breastfeed her child is considered to be an act of discrimination.

New Jersey

A woman is permitted to breastfeed her child in any location where she is otherwise authorized to be. If an establishment violates the state’s law, it is subject to a fine of up to $100.

New Mexico

A mother may breastfeed her child in any location where she is otherwise authorized to be.

New York

A woman breastfeeding in public is protected under New York state law. The exposure of one’s breast during or as a result of the act of breastfeeding shall not be considered indecent exposure.

North Carolina

A woman has the right to breastfeed in public in any location, private or public, that she otherwise has the authority to be. Nursing moms are exempt from indecent exposure violations if their breasts are visible as a result of breastfeeding.

North Dakota

A woman is permitted to breastfeed in public so long as it’s done discreetly.

Ohio

A mother has the right to breastfeed in public in any location she otherwise has the right to be.

Oklahoma

Breastfeeding in public is permitted in any location that a mother otherwise has permission to be and should not be considered indecent exposure. Nursing moms can be exempt from jury duty if they so choose.

Oregon

A woman has the right to breastfeed her child in a public place.

Pennsylvania

Women are permitted (but do not have the right) to breastfeed in any public place that she is otherwise authorized to be. The act of breastfeeding in public should not be considered indecent exposure, sexual conduct or a nuisance. It is unlawful to discriminate against a breastfeeding from from a good or service she would otherwise be entitled to.

Rhode Island

Breastfeeding in public should not be considered disorderly conduct under Rhode Island state law.

South Carolina

A woman has the right to breastfeed her child in any location where they are both otherwise authorized to be. The act of breastfeeding in public is not considered indecent exposure.

South Dakota

South Dakota exempts breastfeeding in public from its indecent exposure laws.

Tennessee

Breastfeeding in public is permitted in any location, private or public, where a mother and child are otherwise authorized to be. A woman breastfeeding in public is exempt from the state’s indecent exposure violations.

Texas

A woman has the right to breastfeed her baby in any location where she is otherwise permitted to be.

Utah

A mother has the right to breastfeed her child in any location that she otherwise has authority to be and is protected against indecent exposure violations.

Vermont

Breastfeeding in public is permitted in any public location that both the mother and child otherwise have legal permission to be.

Virginia

A woman has the right to breastfeed her child in any public place owned by the Commonwealth of Virginia. Breastfeeding in public is not considered indecent exposure under state law.

Washington

In Washington, a nursing mother is exempt from the state’s indecent exposure laws.

West Virginia

A breastfeeding mother may nurse her child in any location open to the public. Breastfeeding is exempt from indecent exposure violations, both in public and private locations.

Wisconsin

A woman has the right to breastfeed her child in any location, private or public. Any suggestion to cover up, move to another location or stop breastfeeding is considered illegal. Breastfeeding in public is exempt from the state’s indecent exposure laws.

Wyoming

Breastfeeding moms are exempt from indecent exposure violations when nursing in any place where the mother is otherwise authorized to be.

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